“Beastly and Beautiful”: Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (LIT2520.01)

Jenny Boully

(Important Notice: This course focuses on the novel Lolita, which can be disturbing to some readers. Our class discussions will not be able to circumvent the narrative of an older man exploiting a child. Please be aware of this difficult material before registering for the course.)

In Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955), Humbert Humbert writes, “I am trying to describe these things not to relive them in my present boundless misery, but to sort out the portion of hell and the portion of heaven in that strange, awful, maddening world—nymphet love. The beastly and beautiful merged at one point, and it is that borderline I would like to fix.” It is precisely this borderline between “monster” and “fancy prose” stylist that we will examine in this course, which will also consider Nabokov’s Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (1951), his research on butterflies, as well as The Enchanter, a precursor to Lolita. When Lolita was first published, it was deemed “filthy” yet enjoyed the status as a best-seller, and it continues in the contemporary era to both attract and repel. In addition to reading academic scholarship on Lolita, we will also consider the recently published Lolita in the Afterlife: On Beauty, Risk, and Reckoning with the Most Indelible and Shocking Novel of the Twentieth Century (2021) as well as cultural and cinematic representations or reckonings of the novel.


Learning Outcomes:
-To interpret literature through historical, social, cultural, and literary considerations as well as independently through one’s own critical
discoveries and curiosities;
-To gain an overview of Nabokov's writings as applicable to historical and cultural considerations;
-To interpret a range contemporary and classical criticism of source texts within relevant cultural considerations;
-To eloquently discourse on literature while retaining one’s individual interpretation of a text.


Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 4
T/F 8:30AM - 10:20AM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , Literature , Fully In-Person
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