Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Phillip Sipiora

Keywords

defamiliarization, estrangement, hermeneutics, modernism, phenomenology

Abstract

Although presenting the concept of love in a form not accepted by societal conventions does indeed estrange the conception of love in Nabakov's Lolita, it does nothing to explain how readers accept Humbert's passion, without immediately and consistently disregarding it as lewd and inappropriate. I will argue that Nabakov estranges the romantic conceptions not by defamiliarizing the occasion of love (i.e. by making the romance a manifestation of pedophilia), but rather by defamiliarizing and complicating the acts of both reading and interpreting. First, I will make associations between the Romantics and Nabokov, regarding their shared desire to renew the habitual acts of both perceiving and interpreting human life, which they accomplish through methods of isolating the emotions effected by acts--not the acts themselves. After which, I will examine the theories of phenomenology and externalist philosophy to cement the concepts of anticipation and hermeneutics, starting in general and then narrowing to the act of reading. In following, I will demonstrate how Nabokov agitates this anticipation for readers, making the very act of reading Lolita a new experience, in which Romantic themes do not appear cliché and outdated. On the whole, I will maintain that it is this disruption in interpretation that absolves Humbert's ills, allowing Lolita to maintain its status as one of the greatest love stories of the twentieth century.

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