'Conventions are conventions' : some thoughts about the techniques of direction and misdirection, with particular reference to genre features, in the novels of Vladimir Nabokov, and an assessment of their intentions and effects
The thesis deals with the development of Nabokov's treatment of a number of the more common routes and courses which are traditionally supplied by the author to ease the passage of the reader through fiction. It attempts to show how these marked paths and familiar signposts - 'melodrama,' 'totalitarian novel,' 'biography,' 'erotic confession,' 'critical edition,' 'family chronicle, 'mystery story,' and 'autobiographical confession' - emerge in the books as equally misguiding and misguided. The satisfactory application of such labels is demonstrated as becoming progressively more difficult as the novels proceed, with a rising degree of sophistication, to incorporate distinctive combinations of genre features usually considered as mutually exclusive. Further inquiries into the manner of fictional orientation and location encouraged by this regular disappointment of apparently familiar leads and landmarks, however, is increasingly seen to disclose the underlying procedures and desires of the reader to place and confine narrative. The manner in which Nabokov's reader is repeatedly obliged to return to a non-metaphorical 'first base' by way of these false trails, which seemingly point towards an authoritative text, and there to re-examine his own imaginative input is also traced.