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Humbert Humbert's rethoric and the paradigm of distrust: a reading of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita

Grant number: 16/03970-9
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Scientific Initiation
Effective date (Start): June 01, 2016
Effective date (End): December 31, 2016
Field of knowledge:Linguistics, Literature and Arts - Literature - Modern Foreign Literatures
Principal researcher:Jefferson Cano
Grantee:Júlia Mota Silva Costa
Home Institution: Instituto de Estudos da Linguagem (IEL). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil


This research project develops a reading of the novel Lolita (1955), written by Vladimir Nabokov. According to our reading, Humbert Humbert's narrative must be understood rather as a defensive play than as, in the words John Ray, fictional editor of the novel, "a tragic tale tending unswervingly to nothing less than a moral apotheosis". The hypothesis has its roots in the parallel with Dom Casmurro (1899), a novel by Machado de Assis, and the study that Helen Caldwell develops about this book in The Machado de Assis' Brazilian Othello (1960), in which the author questions the impartiality of Casmurro's narrative for the first time, and formulates the thesis that the novel is actually a legal piece of prosecution. In this sense, we identify mainly six rhetorical movements in Humbert Humbert's speech that point out to its manipulator character and structure the argument of the hypothesis to be evidenced, namely, (1) the suggestion of a pathological condition, (2) the dehumanization of the "nymphet", (3) the intertextuality, (4) the cultural relativism of pedophilia, (5) the remorse and (6) the primacy of art.

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