Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Pat Rogers, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Victor Peppard, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Silvio Gaggi, Ph.D.

Keywords

Law and Literature, Ford Maddox Ford, Vladimir Nabokov

Abstract

This dissertation will apply the structure of a legal trial’s procedures to two

Modernist novels: Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier (1915) and Vladimir

Nabokov’s Lolita (1955). These novels position themselves as renderings of legal

proceedings, the written memoriam of metaphorical trials conducted by first person

narrators who alternatively and simultaneously function as Plaintiff’s counsel, Defense

Counsel and finally as witnesses to the events of the story. All of these personae reveal

evidence and testimony presented in the forum of a trial of the central characters who

recollect legal events and whose narrations develop moral questions. Thus these

narrations are the court record, from which there is no appeal, culminating in not only

persuasive arguments about guilt and innocence of the central characters, but also

demanding that a verdict or moral judgment be rendered by the reader of these behaviors

and values of the individuals as well as the societies which these authors critique in their

novels.

Ford Madox Ford in The Good Soldier (1915) and Vladimir Nabokov in Lolita

(1955) create fictional artifacts which instill impressions of human life and present

specific revelations of human nature in their art. Their narratives explain certain events in

a temporal order, which communicate to readers a fictional world, its participants, and

especially their emotions. These particular novels are early and late examples of

Modernism, and are very different from one another, yet both illustrate the characteristics

that so clearly define the Modern novel: art’s ability to engage not just the mind but the

senses; the reader does not just read, but rather becomes immersed in the feelings of the

characters in the story. The reader feels the dynamics between the characters through the

narrative presentation as closely as possible to his or her being actually present in the

fictionally created world of the novel.

Both novels present their stories in a thrice-told frame that allows the

character/narrators to explore epistemology and justifications for their acts or inaction.

These stories are recollections, so that each character/narrator is remembering his

respective narrative after the facts; these novels are unique for this timing.

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