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Title: Locating Lolita : demystifying structural smokescreens within and without the text
Authors: Diana Abdul Rahim
Keywords: DRNTU::Humanities::Literature
Issue Date: 2015
Abstract: 60 years after its publication, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita continues to be hugely popular and widely studied. Aside from its undeniable aesthetic brilliance and its taboo content, a large part of the fascination with the book through the decades, no doubt, goes hand-in-hand with the continued cultural fascination and anxiety with the sexuality of young girls. While there has been some difference in the way the book has been interpreted over the years, the discourse around Humbert’s accountability and the degree of Lolita’s victimhood has remained largely the same even after 6 decades. This is largely due to how the book has been popularly received as a love story, despite the sexual abuse Humbert put Lolita through. There is firstly of course the structural problem of the text itself; Lolita is heteroglossia par excellance. The difficulty of locating Lolita within the text due to the novel’s intertextual qualities have resulted in the difficulty (or convenience) for a lot of scholars to avoid conclusively indicting Humbert and therefore, the difficulty in acknowledging Lolita’s suffering. We never get to see Lolita as she is for she is always referred to via an external sign, be it through metaphors, notably as Eve, or her initial presentation to us as the substitute for Humbert’s lost young love or the smattering of different names Humbert calls her throughout the book. Humbert has already set parameters for how we would interpret Lolita. There are a host of signifiers deflecting us from truly seeing the signified. Aside from the structural problem within the text, there are also structural problems without the text that affect and continue to affect how Lolita is received and interpreted. Perhaps the contention over the degree of Humbert’s accountability will continue to persist since after all, the larger society perceives Lolita with its own lens; a lens that is tainted with its own cultural confusion and anxiety when it comes to the sexuality of young girls and its general failure in confronting sexual abuse cases. It is because of these structural reasons, both within and outside of the text, that I will argue that Dolores Haze has not only been lost and voiceless to us through the decades, but locked in her abuse. Her voice is often unheard, her suffering unacknowledged and the need to locate her within the text and free her requires moving beyond the false dichotomy of the sexless child or the seductress nymphet as well as dismantling the various cultural and structural issues that have allowed her to be misinterpreted.
Rights: Nanyang Technological University
Fulltext Permission: restricted
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:HSS Student Reports (FYP/IA/PA/PI)

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