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Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita to a Wittgensteinian Analysis

" Nabokov's Lolita centers around the voice of Humbert Humbert, and as such it utilizes many words and phrases which are connected with Humbert's inner thoughts and feelings. This emphasis on subjectivity causes many of Humbert's expressions to be somewhat confusing in terms of meaning. It should also be noted that the text of Lolita is based on Humbert's memories, which are transmitted by him as he waits in jail for his sentencing. In Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein indicated that "memory-experiences" have "no experiential content." Because of this fact, the meanings of Humbert's memory-based expressions are prone to even further levels of confusion.

In analyzing the language of Lolita, one must also be aware of the fact that Nabokov's novel was intended to serve as a work of art. Understanding this can help the reader to understand the specific choices of words and expressions that Nabokov made in creating his narrative. The underlying theme of art and aesthetics in Lolita is brought out in the final passage of the novel, in which Humbert assumes that both he and Lolita will be dead by the time anyone reads his manuscript. He claims that he had to live as long as he did so that he could write Lolita's story and make her "live in the minds of later generations." Furthermore, he claims: "I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita." Because Lolita is intended as a work of art, many of its meanings are contained in metaphors, puns, and other forms of non-literal language. This use of language is justifiable because a "literal statement is not inherently closer to any overriding sense of 'truth' than any other sort of statement (unless, of course, we simply want to define truth such that it must always be literal)." According to Wittgensteinian analysis, different language-games requir...

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Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita to a Wittgensteinian Analysis. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 11:19, August 20, 2017, from
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