Rhetorical Caricature: An Educational Reading of Nabokov's Treatment of Freud

Herner Saeverot


Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977), Russian-American novelist and lepidopterist, was neither a didactician nor a moralist. His images, which he painted with his words, are deceptive and contradictory. But the strangest thing happens. It turns out that Nabokov disliked Freud and painted images of the psychoanalyst that seem to become stale and mechanical. Literary critics, philosophers, and others have had a tendency to criticize Nabokov for suffering from influence-anxiety when it comes to Freud, hence making Nabokov into a dull paternalist with strong and prejudiced convictions. My suggestion is that we go beyond the ‘anxiety of influence’ viewpoint and address the issue through a phenomenological study and base our judgments on the experiences of the phenomena that shine through different texts of Nabokov. Thus it will be possible to see, I argue, that Nabokov’s rhetorical caricature may evoke experiences that are educative. At the same time, Nabokov’s treatment of Freud can be cast in a new light.

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ISSN: 1913-4711