“Perception, Taxonomy, and Creation in Nabokov's Works”

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Robert F. Barsky


Part of the pleasure of reading Nabokov is the confrontation with uncomfortable truths, both in a kind of raw form, but also in forms of puzzles, so that the reader is often uncertain as to what kind of questions are being posed, or which links are being made, until careful consideration of the situation at hand. Readers are quite literally seduced by luscious prose, provocative images, and fantastical juxtapositions, a kind of Barthes-like “jouissance” that begins with some level of uncertainty as to what precisely is occurring in any given scene, and follows up with titillating, provocative and sometimes shocking revelations. The puzzle-like quality of the text also leads readers into the processes described by Umberto Eco, in Lector in Fabula, whereby the careful cataloguing of detail, arranging of facts, and inquiries into meanings of particular words or events, gives the reader a task for which she is rewarded with scientific, historical or literary insights that are satisfying, both in themselves, and for the ways that they propel the narrative forward. In this respect, the science of Nabokov’s art underlies the whole project, and this new and magnificent work, Fine Lines: Vladimir Nabokov’s Scientific Art, carefully explains why this is so; in so doing, it brings readers to recognize with awe the breadth and depth of Nabokov’s genius by providing the kinds of detail that is required in order to explain and valorize his scientific accomplishments.

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How to Cite
Barsky, R. F. (2018). “Perception, Taxonomy, and Creation in Nabokov’s Works”. AmeriQuests, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.15695/amqst.v14i1.4490
Author Biography

Robert F. Barsky, Vanderbilt University

Robert Barsky is the author or editor of numerous books on narrative and refugee law (Constructing a Productive Other: Discourse Theory and the Convention Refugee Hearing and Arguing and Justifying: Assessing the Convention Refugees' Choice of Moment, Motive and Host Country), on radical theory and practice (Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent and an edition of Anton Pannekoek's Workers Councils) on discourse and literary theory (Introduction à la théorie littéraire, an edited volume with Michael Holquist entitled Bakhtin and Otherness, an edited collection with Eric Méchoulan entitled The Production of French Criticism, and, most recently, an edited collection entitled Marc Angenot and the Scandal of History) and on translation -- in both theory and practice (including the translation of Michel Meyer's Philosophy and the Passions). He has been involved with a range of journals, including SubStance, for which he served as an editor, and he is the founder of 415 South Street, a literary magazine, and Discours social/Social Discourse. He is Professor of Comparative Literature, French and Italian, Vanderbilt University.