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Lolita's Time Leaks and Transatlantic Decadence

Norman, Will (2009) Lolita's Time Leaks and Transatlantic Decadence. European Journal of American Culture, 28 (2). pp. 185-204. ISSN 1466-0407. E-ISSN 1758-9118. (doi:10.1386/ejac.28.2.185_1) (KAR id:55165)


In this paper I investigate the matrix of transatlantic literary exchange in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955) in order to suggest how the novel’s rehabilitation of an international decadent aesthetics constitutes a radical challenge to the American literary establishment in the postwar. I begin by identifying the figures of Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Baudelaire and Algernon Swinburne as the key constellation for Nabokov in his plotting of Lolita’s ambivalent engagement with the ethics of temporality and artistic autonomy. I then go on to situate Lolita’s composition within debates current in the American academy from the late 1930s to the early 1950s over the value of decadent aesthetics within the modernist project and anxieties over Poe’s place within American national literary culture. Read alongside the critical writings of T.S. Eliot, Allen Tate, and the New Criticism, Lolita emerges as the risky reinstatement of a transatlantic decadent tradition, in which the failure of temporal and ethical containment disrupts a dominant narrative of modernism’s history in American letters.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1386/ejac.28.2.185_1
Uncontrolled keywords: Lolita; Nabokov, Vladimir; decadence; modernism; time; transatlanticsm
Subjects: P Language and Literature
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN441 Literary History
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Will Norman
Date Deposited: 27 Apr 2016 16:36 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:22 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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