Nabokov on Politics

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Benjamin Mangrum / University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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In a later preface to Bend Sinister (1947), Vladimir Nabokov claims, "the influence of my epoch on my present book is as negligible as the influence of my books, or at least of this book, on my epoch." The conventional reading of Nabokov as an aesthete who is insistent upon sharp divisions between fictional and political worlds has its principal source in the author's stylization of his own career. Yet this way of reading Nabokov has been complicated through such recent studies as Andrea Pitzer's The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov. Despite the many ways that the novelist spurned the literature of "social comment" and "human affairs," his fiction regularly alludes to communist regimes, political dilemmas, and the horrors of European fascism. What are we to make of Nabokov's disavowal in light of the political detail populating much of his work? How does the political figure into fiction that the author so vehemently presented as Art for Art's sake? Reading against the grain of Nabokov's insistence, what political histories influence his impressive career as a writer?

This panel invites papers to explore these and other questions regarding the political in Nabokov's fiction, whether through his short stories and novels dealing directly with political themes (e.g. Bend Sinister or the collection Tyrants Destroyed), or through the subtle detail and allusions signaling that politics haunts his work. Following the theme of SAMLA 87, papers may also consider the connections between Nabokov's political fictions and the other arts. How, for instance, does Nabokov's interest in film inform his American career? Or what influence might his interest in painting and sculpture have upon his political thought?

Please submit a CV and abstracts of no more than 300 words to Benjamin Mangrum ( by June 14, 2015.