Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0000368, Wed, 9 Nov 1994 08:39:30 -0800

Re: Romantic novel (fwd)

Spurred by the challenge to provide both a dictionary definition of
"romanticism," and to cite an example of the genre, I hie to the OED
(new ed.) and found this, almost peculiarly resonant, definition and
example (under "romanticism"):

"Of a work of modern literature, etc.: having romance as its subject;
treating of a love affair. 1960 R. REES _For Love or Money_ ii. 30 'The
doctrine of D.H. Lawrence's _Fantasia of the Unconscious:_ that sexual
passion, unrelated to the religious impulse... leads to sterility and
death - as in _Anna Karenina_, in _Carmen_, and in the greater part of
European "romantic" literature.'"

What resonates, I hope, in this is not "D.H. Lawrence" or "R.REED" (?),
(though _For Love or Money_ has the undeniable soupcon of such things as
_Through Town and Village_), but "sterility and death" (cf. Martin Amis),
and the novel titles included.

My return query concerns the justice of the "romantic novel" as a
template for _Lolita_ when "novel" is such a limited term to apply to
these influences. (To use Prof. Johnson's examples:) Pushkin's &
Byron's works were in verse; Chateaubriand's (and my own example,
Merimee's) were more novellas or even long short-stories, and Poe's
writings (especially those most germane to _L..._) were the same --
verse or short stories. What else have you got? This is all, of course, a
genre-ic stance, without regard to themes.

Allan McWilliams