Does Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’ have any canonical value?
The literary canon is the group of texts considered to be of the most value. These are books which are generally taught in schools, colleges and universities. Authors that belong to the canon seem to follow certain characteristics; middle or upper class, white male authors who are dead. Writers such as Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer are synonymous with the canon and also follow these characteristics. Vladimir Nabokov follows most of these characteristics for authors within the canon, but can his novel ‘Lolita’ be considered to have any canonical value? How can the story of paedophile, Humbert Humbert, who becomes obsessed with twelve-year old Dolores Haze, be considered part of the literary canon when it surrounds such abject subject? Language and style in valued texts is described by the critical anthology as being ‘elegant, witty, patterned, controlled’. With that description in mind, one can clearly observe the sophistication and elegant writing style that Nabokov consistently uses in his novels, especially Lolita. Nabokov’s prose is often pleasing to read aloud, for his words are carefully placed upon their audio qualities. For example, even in a seemingly regular phrase within Lolita, Nabokov clearly cares for how the words sound together, and possibly even which colours they produce. He writes, “I am loath to dwell so long on the poor fellow”. Except for “fellow,” every word is one-syllable, creating a quick pace to the phrase. In addition, the monosyllabic’ phrase, “so long,” is technically unnecessary, as Nabokov could have left it out and still made his point. However, adding “so long” creates an iambic rhythm when combined with “to dwell” and adds alliteration also. Thus, even Nabokov’s smallest phrases have been constructed carefully for the sounds, colours, and shapes they may create. Nabokov’s writing style is full of poetic flair. Nabokov adds little touches of French to his writing, for two...
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