Vladimir Nabokov's Poetry in Russian Emigre Criticism: A Partial Survey

By Morris, Paul D | Canadian Slavonic Papers, September-December 1998 | Go to article overview

Vladimir Nabokov's Poetry in Russian Emigre Criticism: A Partial Survey


Morris, Paul D, Canadian Slavonic Papers


Vladimir Nabokov began his illustrious literary career as a Russian poet. This simple comment bears stating if for no other reason than to draw attention to an aspect of Nabokov's writing which is often neglected. The author of many unpublished poems and a considerable number of published ones in several volumes which span his career, Nabokov retained a life-long interest in poetry. Indeed, Nabokov's oeuvre is symmetrically and suggestively contained within the matching bookends of two volumes of poetry-his first publication of 1916 and his final, posthumously published work of 1979-both entitled simply Stikhi. Despite the prominent presence of poetry in his oeuvre, criticism has accorded Nabokov's poetry far less attention than his prose. Possible reasons for this relative neglect are close at hand. Foremost amongst these must be Nabokov's brilliance as a writer of prose. Whatever the relative merits of his poetry-and as we shall see below, judging the aesthetic quality of his poetry is not an unproblematic undertaking-the startling quality of his prose contributes to the diminishing of his achievements in other artistic realms. Relatedly, Nabokov's poetry suffers obscurity in part as a result of historical and linguistic circumstance. Published in Russian and often in emigre journals with limited circulation, much of Nabokov's poetry bore the same undeserved fate which afflicted much of emigre Russia's astounding artistic output between the wars. In transferring the bulk of his artistic activities to English and prose, Nabokov began the process of winning a larger audience for his art. In making this move, however, he seemed to leave behind the language and genre which helped to form his art and which introduced him to his first extended readership. It is to this art form and audience that I would like to return in the following paper. With this study, I intend to make a limited contribution to the larger topic of a much needed critical assessment of the place of poetry in Nabokov's oeuvre. Here I wish to undertake a partial examination of the response to Nabokov the poet in emigre criticism from the early 1920s, when Nabokov first began to appear as a regularly published poet, until 1956 and the appearance of Gleb Struve's Russkaia literatura v izgnanii (Russian Literature in Exile).2 My reasons for concluding this survey in 1956 are essentially twofold. By 1956, Nabokov was a well established English language prose writer, who no longer sought an extended audience for the occasional Russian poems he continued to write. Secondly, Struve's seminal account of emigre Russian literature offers a synthesising interpretation of this particular cultural phenomenon which, in its very conclusiveness, seems to suggest a historical point of closure. With regard to an appraisal of Nabokov's role and value as a poet, Stuve's sensitive assessment also had something of a finalising, and in this sense restricting, function. In the final analysis, Struve's influential interpretation judged Nabokov to be a prose writer who wrote poetry until he switched to the medium better suited to his skills. Rather than placing Nabokov's efforts in prose and poetry on a continuum of related abilities, the two realms were conceived of as separate and even conflicting in his art. Already in 1956, Struve looked back on Nabokov's poetic production as if on a closed chapter in Nabokov's writing. Since then, critical reception of Nabokov's poetry has been effectively entombed in the perception of it as the immature expression of his artistic ability, cut off by language and artistic mode from the remainder of his oeuvre. As much by accident as design, this interpretation, while undoubtedly not intended to be restrictive, has remained the dominant approach to Nabokov the poet and has yet to be systematically examined. As the totality of his oeuvre makes clear, however, Nabokov retained a life-long interest in poetry. His numerous fictional and non-fictional works continually return, in the most diverse ways, to poetry. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Vladimir Nabokov's Poetry in Russian Emigre Criticism: A Partial Survey
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.