The Link Between Nabokov And Psychoanalysis

I want to explore the link between Psychoanalysis and author, Vladimir Nabokov. Believing there are strong parallels between the two; psychoanalysis is a theory of interpretation of the mind and that literature is also a form of representation of the human mind. Considering this theory, I would like to explore this within Nabokov’s writing and investigate what psychoanalysts have written about Nabokov and what gaps there are in secondary readings on Nabokov. The types of elements I would like to explore in Nabokov’s writing would be dreams, and what psychoanalysis has to say about dreams. The relationship between dreams and symptoms, the structure of dreams, and how they are put together. In the structure of dreams, we find the road to the subconscious mind, they are a manifestation of a latent wish; a thing that is censored. Regarding Nabokov’s writings, I would investigate where he deploys dreams and how it carries characters forward. For example, in Lolita, Humbert’s entire narrative originates from a dream under the Arctic midnight sun.

Other possible components of psychoanalysis I would like to explore would be Doppelgangers, repetition, and Freud’s The Uncanny. How the eeriness and the uncomfortable nature of repetition weave its way into Nabokov’s work. Such as the doppelganger motif throughout Lolita, with Anabelle and Lolita, Humbert and Quilty, and Veera and Charlotte. Also, the uncanny parallels between relationships; Anabelle and Lolita’s physical relationships with Humbert. Even the idea that Timofey Pnin, from Pnin, is a doppelganger of Nabokov himself. This notion of repetition plays on the ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ 1920 essay by Freud in which he returns to his earliest theories. Stating that wishing is at the origin of the psyche and one must master fear, anxiety, or traumatic neurosis with the use of repetition. The fundamental principle of ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ is repetition compulsion; re-enacting and repeating unpleasant events to relieve the anxiety of traumas, allowing relief to one’s self-destruction and mastering their fears. This analysis then allows for an exploration of the link between dreams and the Beyond Pleasure Principle.

Finally, as mentioned before, I would like to explore the secondary readings surrounding Nabokov and Psychoanalysis. What have psychoanalysts discussed and what gaps are there within this domain that I would like to consider? In particular, I would find Companions to Lolita on Psychoanalysis, handbook, and student guides to Lolita, and references from PepWeb- a resource our University library offers on references and secondary readings. One reading, in particular, I would like to review is a Ph.D. thesis by Christine Clegg, which was republished in New Formations, The Ruins of Childhood. Analysing sexuality and the debate around sexual trauma and Lolita. How Freud may have neglected child sexual abuse in his theories and encouraged such works like Lolita. Clegg discusses psychoanalysis in her work, but this was not her main and only reading of Nabokov. Opening my eyes and my work to not only Freud’s idea of sexuality but alternative readings. 

16 August 2021
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