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Lectures on Literature

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  1,291 ratings  ·  75 reviews
For nearly twenty years, 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 on Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, Bleak House by Charles Dickens, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Swann's Way by Marce ...more
Paperback, 385 pages
Published February 1st 1982 by Mariner Books (first published 1980)
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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
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
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
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
for a split second, this made me nostalgic for college. then i recovered my senses.
Steven Peterson
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 4 of 5 stars
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
Julia Boechat Machado
All my reviews are currently in Library Thing. I'm no longer updating my GR since it was bought by Amazon.
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nick Tramdack
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
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
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
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
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
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
This was my pilot though my first reading of Ulysses. And I cherish the lecture on Madame Bovary.
Sherwood Smith
Probably my favorite book on literary criticism. I reread it often.
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
May 18, 2011 Mazel marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
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
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 ^^
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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.
So far I've only read the essay concerning Dickens' "Bleak House," but I'm planning to return to this collection for the "Mansfield Park" essay and others. Unfortunately, I'm behind on some of the other books in question (the other essays address "Madame Bovary" and other high-brow things I haven't read yet), so it may be a long process. The Dickens essay was informative, but focused entirely on literary devices, rather than expressing Nabokov's opinion. That probably makes it more fair and obje ...more
Richard F. Schiller
Very interesting collection of lectures that gives the reader greater insight into Nabokov's approach to literature. His own writing is often very subtle and puzzling, but here, we see Nabokov commenting directly on literature as a whole. Some lectures are definitely better than others; the ones on Proust and Kafka were magnificent while the Stevenson lecture was somewhat disappointing. Also annoyed sometimes by the sheer amount of plot summary, but nonetheless an interesting read and path into ...more
Word of warning, if you're planning on using any of these essays as a secondary text in a university assignment, be prepared to research Nabokov's sources because there's no citation and no bibliography. So irritating. In the Jekyll and Hyde chapter he referred to Stephen Gwynn. He only gave the name and the idea, and after about an hour of searching I found that Nabokov was referring to a biography of Robert Louis Stevenson, nearly 80 years out of print.

Helpful Nabokov. Oxford or Harvard, this
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years
  • Less Than One: Selected Essays
  • On Literature
  • Axel's Castle: A Study of the Imaginative Literature of 1870-1930
  • The Uses of Literature
  • Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature
  • The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays
  • Theory of Prose
  • Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature
  • The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief (Modern Library Paperbacks)
  • The Rise of the Novel
  • The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages
  • The Second Common Reader
  • 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
  • Days of Reading
  • Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays
  • Testaments Betrayed: An Essay in Nine Parts
  • For a New Novel: Essays on Fiction
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
More about Vladimir Nabokov...
Lolita Pale Fire Pnin Invitation to a Beheading Speak, Memory

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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.” 385 likes
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