NABOKV-L post 0021074, Sat, 18 Dec 2010 14:12:53 +0000

Re: "Death of the Author" and its prehistory
Fascinating, SHB. Taine no longer read = DEATH of BOTH author AND readers?!

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On 19 Nov 2010, at 19:31, Stephen Blackwell <sblackwe@UTK.EDU> wrote:

> As a minor follow-up to the detailed post by Jim Twiggs this morning (of which I get to see an advance copy), I'd like to draw attention to a still earlier incarnation of the "Death of the Author" phenomenon. The 19th-Century French psychologist/philosopher/critic Hippolyte Taine produced what I believe was the primordial version of the author's death, in the modern sense, and a spirited rebuttal to Taine occupies a significant place in Iulii Aikhenvald's writings, especially in the theoretical introduction to Silhouettes of Russian Writers and some of the other essays. Aikhenvald (as many of you know, Nabokov's close friend in the 1920s) was a major early describer of the "reader's role" in shaping a literary work's ongoing form. Evgeny Dobrenko, I think, called him the first "reader-response" critic. I believe that Nabokov's comment to Proffer reflects, at the very least, his sense of kinship with Aikhenvald's view of the literary work as "aesthetic object". I have a project on Aikhenvald on my back burner, with some information on Taine, but don't have any specifics to offer right now. Hoping to finish that piece up within the next year. Taine, by the way, was a huge intellectual figure leading into the 20th century, represented by close to a dozen volumes in the Nabokovs' St. Petersburg library by 1911. Mostly forgotten now (one of my French colleagues told me 'nobody reads Taine') he appears extensively in Joseph Carroll's Evolution and Literary Theory (Missouri, 1995).
> Stephen Blackwell
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