Nabokov’s Women: The Silent Sisterhood of Textual Nomads is the first book-length study to focus on Nabokov’s relationship with his heroines. Essays by distinguished Nabokov scholars explore the multilayered and nomadic nature of Nabokov’s lovers, witches, muses, mermaids, and nymphets: their voice and voicelessness, their absentness, the paradigm of power and sacrifice within which they are situated, the paradox of their unattainability, their complex relationship with textual borders, the travel narrative, and with the author himself.
By design, Nabokov’s woman is often assigned a short-term tourist visa with a firm expiration date. Her departure is facilitated by death or involuntary absence, which watermarks her into the male protagonist’s narrative, granting him an artistic release or a gift of self-understanding. When she leaves the stage, her portrait remains ambiguous. She can be powerfully enigmatic, but not self-actualized enough to be dynamic or, for even where the terms of her existence are deeply considered or her image beheld reverently, her recognition seems to be limited to the “Works Cited” register of the male narrator’s personal life. As a result, Nabokov’s texts often feature a nomadic woman who seems to live without a narratorial homeland, papers of her own, or storytelling privileges.
This volume explores the “residency status” of Nabokov’s silent nomads—his fleeting lovers, witches, muses, mermaids, and nymphets. As Nabokov scholars analyze the power dynamic of the writer’s narrative of male desire, they ponder—are these female characters directionless wanderers or covert operatives in the terrain of Nabokov’s text? Whereas each essay addresses a different aspect of Nabokov’s artistic relationship with the feminine, together they explore the politics of representation, authorization, and voicelessness. This collection offers new ways of reading and teaching Nabokov and is poised to appeal to a wide range of student and scholarly audiences.
Elena Rakhimova-Sommers: Nabokov’s Passportless Wanderer: A Study of Nabokov’s Woman
PART I: FUGITIVE SOULS
Sofia Ahlberg: Via Dolores: The Passage of the Feminine as Contraband in Nabokov’s Fiction
Alisa Zhulina: Queen Sacrifice: The Feminine Figure of Power and Nabokov’s Strategy of Loss
Matthew Roth: A Small Mad Hope: Pale Fire, Hazel Shade, and the Oedipal Disaster
Elena Rakhimova-Sommers: Nabokov’s Mermaid: “Spring in Fialta"
PART II: FIGMENTS OF DESIRE
David Rampton: Jealously Guarded Secrets: Nabokov’s Women and the Vicissitudes of Desire
Marie Bouchet: The Text(ure) of Desire: The Garments and Ornaments of Nabokov’s Maidens
David H. J. Larmour: Reading the Woman on the Train
PART III: IN SEARCH OF A (LOST) VOICE
Julian W. Connolly: Hearing the Female Voice in Vladimir Nabokov’s Fiction
Olga Voronina: “The Fascination of Pebbles”: Fictional Lives of Véra Nabokov
Susan Elizabeth Sweeney: Nabokov in an Evening Gown
Lara Delage-Toriel: Speak, Mademoiselle: Nabokov's Authorial Posture Revisited