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Stalking Nabokov$
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Brian Boyd

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231158572

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231158572.001.0001

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The Psychological Work of Fictional Play

The Psychological Work of Fictional Play

(p.109) 10. The Psychological Work of Fictional Play
Stalking Nabokov

Brain Boyd

Columbia University Press

This chapter focuses on Vladimir Nabokov's psychology as it relates to his literature. Nabokov once dismissed as “preposterous” Alain Robbe-Grillet's claims that his novels eliminated psychology. When asked if he is a psychological novelist, Nabokov replied: “All novelists of any worth are psychological novelists.” Since he evidently did not consider himself a novelist of no worth, we can infer he saw himself as a psychological novelist. Psychology fills vastly wider channels now than when Nabokov, in the mid-twentieth century, refused to sail between the Scylla of behaviorism and the Charybdis of Sigmund Freud. Nabokov treasured critical independence, but he did not merely resist others: he happily imbibed as much psychology as he could from the art of Leo Tolstoy and the science of William James. This chapter offers a reading of Ada to understand how the psychology Nabokov observes and experiments with in his fiction is intertwined with the modern psychology about whose possibilities he was so skeptical.

Keywords:   psychology, Vladimir Nabokov, literature, novel, behaviorism, Sigmund Freud, Leo Tolstoy, William James, Ada, fiction

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