Event Title

Skilled Narration, Beautiful Language, and Sympathy for the Villain: How Texts Dehumanize the Lolitas and Ledas of Literature

Presenter Information

Julia Berrebi, Oberlin CollegeFollow

Location

King Building 123

Document Type

Presentation

Start Date

4-27-2019 1:00 PM

End Date

4-27-2019 2:20 PM

Abstract

This project examines the role of the narrator in Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, Lolita, and the ethics of representing objects of desire in literary works. In Lolita, Humbert Humbert holds the role of narrator, protagonist, and villain, at once evoking sympathy and reproach. Primary sources include Lolita and poems which represent similar ethical and literary considerations. Throughout the novel, Humbert’s narration dehumanizes and objectifies the character of Lolita while Nabokov questions how well the reader’s moral conceptions of right and wrong stand up next to, or shake underneath the power of, a manipulative narrator. The same objectifying process takes place in "Leda and the Swan" by William Butler Yeats and "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John Keats. By looking at these poems and Lolita together, this paper brings to light the moral questions that lie within solipsistic texts and the way beautiful language captures both its audience and its subjects.

Keywords:

poetry, objectification, narration, narrator, dehumanization, desire, ethics, artistic representation

Notes

Session III, Panel 6 - Feminist | Readings

Moderator: Patrick O'Connor, Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies and Comparative Literature

Major

English; Psychology

Advisor(s)

Laura Baudot, English
Travis Wilson, Psychology

Project Mentor(s)

DeSales Harrison, English and Creative Writing

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Apr 27th, 1:00 PM Apr 27th, 2:20 PM

Skilled Narration, Beautiful Language, and Sympathy for the Villain: How Texts Dehumanize the Lolitas and Ledas of Literature

King Building 123

This project examines the role of the narrator in Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, Lolita, and the ethics of representing objects of desire in literary works. In Lolita, Humbert Humbert holds the role of narrator, protagonist, and villain, at once evoking sympathy and reproach. Primary sources include Lolita and poems which represent similar ethical and literary considerations. Throughout the novel, Humbert’s narration dehumanizes and objectifies the character of Lolita while Nabokov questions how well the reader’s moral conceptions of right and wrong stand up next to, or shake underneath the power of, a manipulative narrator. The same objectifying process takes place in "Leda and the Swan" by William Butler Yeats and "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by John Keats. By looking at these poems and Lolita together, this paper brings to light the moral questions that lie within solipsistic texts and the way beautiful language captures both its audience and its subjects.