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Lectures on Literature

4.31  ·  Rating Details ·  1,458 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
For two decades, first at Wellesley and then at Cornell, Nabokov introduced undergraduates to the delights of great fiction. Here, collected for the first time, are his famous lectures, which include Mansfield Park, Bleak House, and Ulysses. Edited and with a Foreword by Fredson Bowers; Introduction by John Updike; illustrations.
Paperback, 385 pages
Published December 16th 2002 by Mariner Books (first published 1980)
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The Western Canon by Harold BloomIlluminations by Walter BenjaminAspects of the Novel by E.M. ForsterWhy Read the Classics? by Italo CalvinoThe Curtain by Milan Kundera
Works of Literary Criticism
14th out of 241 books — 47 voters
Lolita by Vladimir NabokovAda, or Ardor by Vladimir NabokovPale Fire by Vladimir NabokovPnin by Vladimir NabokovSpeak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
Best of Vladimir Nabokov
13th out of 14 books — 15 voters

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Community Reviews

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Nov 15, 2013 Hadrian rated it it was amazing
This collection of transcribed lectures and sketched marginalia shows what a really keen reader can do, and how much they have to teach us. We are transported to the vertumnal isolation of Cornell, seated in the midst of hunched shuffling sophomores who stared in silent awe of this Vladimir Vladimirovich.

I did not read all of the lectures, but instead only those for the books I had already read. I can assume that a lot of us are familiar with Nabokov's ornate style, but here he is technical and
Sep 13, 2011 J. rated it really liked it
This took me several years to read, and I was very pleased with the way my approach to the lectures worked out. Having listened to very learned lectures on Literature as an undergraduate-- but laboring under the frequent interwoven influences of marijuana daze and 'haven't-quite-read-the-book-in-question' handicaps ...

I took Mr. Nabokov's course, in the nineties. Before starting his chapter on each book, I read that book, without the company, this time, of bong, coed, or Tangerine Dream Lp. Each
If you love classic literature, there is much to be enjoyed in Nabokov's lectures. This volume covers seven novels - Mansfield Park, Bleak House, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Walk by Swann's Place (aka "Swann's Way"), The Metamorphosis (Kafka), and Ulysses. In each case, Nabokov's erudition and unapologetic perspectives offer the reader a way to dig deeper into these classics. Time permitting, I'm looking forward to rereading these novels along with Nabokov's lectures nearby. ...more
Guzin Tanyeri
Oct 13, 2016 Guzin Tanyeri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Benim acı ve hayal kırıklığı yüklü Madame Bovary'm meğer hiciv dolu bir esermiş, bunu Nabokov'dan öğrendim. Bu sayede kitap bambaşka anlamlarla dolup taştı gözümün önünde. (Sayfalarını bir çiçeğin yaprakları gibi açtı önüme, diyeyim de belki sevgili Flaubert'in hoşuna gider =P) Önce kim bilir okuduğum diğer klasiklerde neleri kaçırıyorumdur diye düşündüm. Eh, her eserin dedektifliğini yapan bir başka eser okumak da, nasıl desem, hangi yazar ister ki böyle okuru? Belki de bütün bunlar Nabokov'un ...more
Oct 06, 2012 Hamish rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit, non-fiction
Ok, so first thing: the lecture on Ulysses in here is the best of the bunch and a must for anyone who wants to read that novel, but is intimidated by its (alleged) impenetrability. I'll argue to my death that Ulysses isn't really that hard as long as you apply yourself, and it's way worth the effort, but I will admit it can be a bit tough to follow without the proper grounding. I think the main trick is to read a summary of each chapter BEFORE you read that chapter, and then you'll be able to ea ...more
May 05, 2012 Jon rated it really liked it
Nabokov wasn't just a brilliant and playful writer--he was also an excellent reader, even in a language which he pretended not to know very well. My only objection to this collection is that three of the five chapters are on writers fairly unfamiliar to me. But for the two that I do know--Jane Austen and Charles Dickens--Nabokov is brilliant. He is precise and very fair to Jane Austen, even though her interests are not his own; but his real kinship is with Dickens. He discusses Bleak House at gr ...more
Oct 25, 2007 Juliana rated it liked it
for a split second, this made me nostalgic for college. then i recovered my senses.
Steven Peterson
Jun 17, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
Some time back, I reviewed "Crime and Punishment" for Amazon. One of the commentators on my review suggested that I take a look at Vladimir Nabokov's critical analysis of Dostoevsky. So, via Amazon, I purchased Vladimir Nabokov's book, "Lectures in Literature." As luck would have it, this was not the volume covering Dostoevsky! The end result? A greater appreciation for Nabokov--and also a sense that I'm not apt to invest a great deal of time reading other of his literary analysis.

The essays in
Nov 29, 2011 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Erin by: my man :)

First of all, I felt like it was Christmas while reading these lectures; they are gifts. I feel jealous of the students who were able to take his course. However, I found his "strong," unsubstantiated opinions frustrating, and I confess that I fit more closely with his definition of a "bad" reader than with his definition of a "good" reader. I definitely appreciate style (Nabokov is one of my favorite authors because of style!), but I am also drawn to literature that, as an old friend once put
Ricardo Carrión Pavez
Leer este libro ha sido una gran experiencia para mí, en él está plasmado todo el amor de Nabokov por los libros, por el arte que ocultan, por las maravillosas capacidades encantadoras de los escritores y la pasión que cada uno de ellos pone por sus obras. El trabajo minucioso de Nabokov se ve reflejado en las diversas imágenes que van apareciendo; de anotaciones en sus ejemplares para las clases, los diversos esquemas y hojas sueltas llenas de análisis detallados. Sus constantes quejas sobre la ...more
Jul 01, 2014 Joshua rated it it was amazing
I was reading some of Goethe's poetry the other day and came across the fantastic and devastating "Erlkönig." I vaguely recalled having encountered the poem previously while feverishly digging my way through Nabokov's oeuvre. In the poem, an Elf King attempts to wrest a young boy from the warm embrace of his father's arms while the father remains entirely aloof to the Elf King's presence. Thematically the poem fits well with Lolita, so I started my search there.

While scouring Alfred Appel's anno
Nick Tramdack
Mar 10, 2011 Nick Tramdack rated it liked it
Read this book and join Nabokov for a typically droll, dry, witty take on some classics of European lit.

There are downsides of course. The book pays little attention to twentieth-century literary theory, relying instead on a kind of commonsense model of how literature "should" work. Nabokov's totalizing claims often strike me as fussy bullshit, and his analysis is sometimes just summary. Still, if just for the prose and the pithy remarks, the book's worth reading.

I mean, check it out:

So right
Mar 14, 2009 Jamie rated it it was amazing
Oh... this book was amazing. It's not an easy read if you haven't read the books that he's discussing, and even if you have read them in the past, it's a little dry to read about the structural aspects of Bleak House six years after you've read Bleak House (that said, I've never read "The Metamorphosis" but I had no problems getting through that section). But that's just the bits and pieces of this. What this book really boils down to is a discussion of Nabokov's feelings about reading, about ho ...more
Aug 24, 2010 Everyman rated it really liked it
Many people know Nabokov only, or at least primarily, as the author of Lolita, and may have negative feelings about him based on that book. But there is much more to Nabokov, who was a professor of literature at Cornell University and a visiting lecturer at a number of other universities, including Harvard, where he delivered a wonderful set of lectures on Don Quixote, unfortunately out of print but available from libraries or second hand bookstores.

His Lectures on Literature is a collection of
Apr 09, 2013 Maria rated it it was amazing
I normally read for pleasure of reading & though I prefer some authors over others and some genres over others, I pretty much read everything.
Once I've read Nabokov's lectures I read differently though. First, I'm much more independent in my judgement of the books - I no longer care to like any books I'm "supposed" to like or finish reading some "great classic" or an "excellent bestseller" only because critics say so.
Second, I pay more attention to subtleties of the plot, intricacy of the la
Bhavya Viswarajan
Nov 18, 2015 Bhavya Viswarajan rated it really liked it
From sifting agents to synchronising agents, Nabokov's 2 cents on Literature are worth more than a thousand dollars. The envoi, and the two essays ('Good Readers and Good Writers', 'The Art of Literature and Commonsense') make up the icing on the cake.
Aug 27, 2009 Dave rated it it was amazing
Nabokov is a much better reader than writer, probably the best reader of his time with Bloom trailing behind. He makes me really want to read every book he is writing about. His notes on ulysses are really helpful, especially as he recommends totally ignoring the Homeric parallels and skimming the third chapter.
R.C.A. Nixon
Nov 25, 2014 R.C.A. Nixon rated it really liked it
Since I read this book decades ago I've always recalled with pleasure Nabokov's argument that the aim of literature, his at least, is to enchant. Prior to that I think I read his novels with a certain grudging respect, marvelling at his technical virtuosity, yet always sensing that his books lacked the kind of thematic gravitas that other writers - say Tolstoy to name the best - create to make such noble works. But if one accepts Nabokov's view, then one can focus on the breath-taking brilliance ...more
That this book exists is a joyful and fortunate thing. Other than daydreaming of attending these perfectly composed and (I imagine) perfectly performed lectures, I can only wish that more novels were covered. As with any of the great "fairy tales" lovingly examined here by Nabokov, I never wanted this book to end. Yes Nabokov is a sexist, archly reactionary snob. But for every (hilarious) aristocratic put-down, there is a truly profound insight conveyed in the perfectly measured phrases that set ...more
Jun 15, 2008 Eric rated it really liked it
This was my pilot though my first reading of Ulysses. And I cherish the lecture on Madame Bovary.
Feb 22, 2016 Cici rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read-books
The first piece "Good Readers and Good writers" by Nabokov sets up the feasting table of a master.
By his account, I am still hovering at the lowest rank of readers searching stories, instructions and patterns drawing from the stock of lives and memories that are experienced as "real". Flickers and Mites of literary reminiscences do happen, yet insufficient to expand into "artistic imagination" that frees a reader from the implicit yet constant corroboration of lived experience. Perhaps that is
Sherwood Smith
May 05, 2009 Sherwood Smith rated it it was amazing
Probably my favorite book on literary criticism. I reread it often.
Jan 03, 2015 Staren rated it it was amazing
Whoa, what a language! I thought that any “lectures on Russian literature” should be a quite boring stuff, and I always wondered why people recommend this book of Nabokov eagerly. I wanted “to look at it” some time (some _other_ time, you know), but it was always a very distant, almost inapproachable aim due to other priorities. However, the audiobook was a perfect decision. This is actually the case when I most probably would laubor over this book for a long time and without much pleasure had I ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 18, 2011 Mazel marked it as to-read
Shelves: essai
offert par le Magazine Littéraire

Présentation de l'éditeur :

Littératures réunit l'ensemble des conférences données par Vladimir Nabokov entre 1941 et 1958 dans plusieurs universités américaines où il enseignait la littérature européenne. On y trouve, outre deux essais, " Bons lecteurs et bons écrivains " et " L'art de la littérature et du bon sens ", des réflexions et analyses originales et percutantes consacrées aux oeuvres de Jane Austen, Dickens, Flaubert, Stevenson, Proust, Kafka, Joyce, ain
Jun 27, 2015 Dilara rated it it was amazing
Rafta görünce çok heyecanlanarak, gözlerim parlayarak satın aldım. Bu kitabı derslerin içeriği açısından mı yoksa ders notlarının bir araya getirilip bir bütün oluşturuluş biçimiyle mi eleştireyim bilemedim. Ama iki yol da mükemmele çıkıyor. Ben okurken inanılmaz keyif aldım. Bir sürü not aldım, işlediği metinlerle ilgili onlarca yeni çıkarımım oldu. Hakkını vererek okuyunca ömür boyu işinize yarayacak bir kitap haline geliyor. Nabokov'dan ders dinledim de dedirtiyor hem, daha ne olsun ^^
May 12, 2015 GONZA rated it really liked it
It' a good book, but I didn't really like all the books he explained, some of them I knew already pretty good, and some others were not so interesting. Anyway he is (of course) a great literate and also boring thing were clear, so I think I learnt a lot.

E`un buon saggio, ma non mi sono piaciuti tutti i libri di cui ha parlato, anche perché di alcuni conoscevo giá vita, morte e miracoli, mentre di altri ne potevo anche fare a meno. Comunque lui resta chiaramente un grandissimo letterato con la ca
Apr 11, 2011 Andreea marked it as to-read
Shelves: maybe
Up to this point I've liked everything I've read by Nabokov, but this only made my disappointment more bitter. Lectures on Literature is a really weak book - 3/4 of it is nothing more than resumes and quotes - which are probably very useful if you haven't read the books Nabokov discusses, but end up being nothing more than boring rambles, if you have. I expected at least the few paragraphs which contain N's thoughts on the books to be somewhat insightful, but overall, those are quite bland and u ...more
Aug 08, 2014 Oscar rated it it was amazing
Read from notes during his lectures at Cornell University as this was clearly a man not keen to digress and miss the surgical approach. Akin to one of his first poem "The Wasp" in that he likes to take all the legs off in order to determine how it lives.
Summer Brennan
Aug 23, 2014 Summer Brennan rated it it was amazing
An outstanding collection of essays on Literature. I may like reading Nabakov's thoughts on other people's work more than I like reading his own.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years
  • Axel's Castle: A Study of the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930
  • On Literature
  • Less Than One: Selected Essays
  • The Second Common Reader
  • Theory of Prose
  • The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays
  • The Uses of Literature
  • Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics
  • The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief (Modern Library Paperbacks)
  • Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature
  • This Craft of Verse
  • The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction
  • Hugging the Shore: Essays and Criticism
  • The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts
  • Life Sentences: Literary Judgments and Accounts
  • The Rhetoric of Fiction
  • Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments
Russian: Владимир Владимирович Набоков

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, also known by the pen name Vladimir Sirin, was a Russian-American novelist. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist. He also made significant contributions to lepidoptery and had an interest in chess problems.

Nabokov's Lolita (1955) is frequently cit
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“Literature was not born the day when a boy crying "wolf, wolf" came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels; literature was born on the day when a boy came crying "wolf, wolf" and there was no wolf behind him.” 418 likes
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