The present study examines Nabokov’s notoriously ambiguous short story “Signs and Symbols” through the lens of conceptual blending theory. Such an approach draws attention to the ways in which Nabokov tasks the reader with creative potential. By de-emphasizing narrative “solutions” and instead focusing on how blends are constructed as three different levels, from the characters to the reader, Nabokov’s story likewise champions the pleasures of riddle-making and riddle-solving. To do so, Nabokov crafts a story about a character with a neurological disorder, even as it demonstrates how the healthy human mind functions to create meaning through conceptual blending. Re-conceptualizing the elusive “how,” the ways Nabokov manipulates readers’ expectations and constructs a text that draws attention to how the imagination construes and continually re-construes a fictional world, opens up new vistas. At its core, Nabokov’s story may be seen to be about the various possibilities engendered by its vague ending paradoxically coming to fruition all at once, and conceptual blending theory helps foreground both the pleasures of interpretation.
How “Everything went wrong”: Conceptual Blending, Ambiguous Conclusions, and Nabokov’s “Signs and Symbols”
Periodical or collection
Nabokov Online Journal