Lolita Essay

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De-victimizing Lolita: Removing Emotion from the Classroom

Abstract: This paper focuses on Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita. Specifically the argument discusses the need for reform within the classroom setting regarding student reaction and interpretation to the text. Class discussion involving Lolita tends to fall under a blanket of socially constructed presumptions that lend the discussion toward a shallow and judgmental reading of the text, and this tendency limits the discussion. This paper argues that, for a teacher attempting to teach this novel, it is important to limit the amount of emotionally reactionary responses and guide the class towards a more allegorical or symbolic representation of the text. This paper is intended for
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However, when I found myself again discussing Lolita with this same narrow approach in my graduate class, I began to wonder if the majority of readers only focused on Humbert Humbert’s transgressions. Had the rest of the world missed the point? Could no one recognize the genius behind the monster? Is it possible for the average reader to grasp the ironic intentions of the author, or is Lolita forever overshadowed by the reader’s need to judge and dismiss?
Too often Lolita is read from only one perspective, the perspective of monstrosity. “Nabokov the pornographer threatened to expose and corrupt others, particularly children, through the publication of a novel about unnatural desire” (Whiting 835). The tendency is for the average reader to become entangled in a moral debate, to take opposition to the seemingly criminal and amoral acts of the narrator, to condemn him for his blatant and grotesque sin. This surface analysis of the text was prevalent at the time of publication, delaying the release of the novel in the United States by three years. “Most reviews of the novel [Lolita] dealt with the narrow issue of its alleged obscenity. The novel was published three years earlier in France because Nabokov could not find an American publisher ready to risk publishing it” (Tamir-Ghez 65). Critical theory since this time has uncovered multiple layers of interpretation that offer much more meaningful analysis of the novel

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