Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Lectures on Literature” as Want to Read:
Lectures on Literature
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Lectures on Literature

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  1,701 Ratings  ·  103 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Lectures on Literature, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Lectures on Literature

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
At first I was wary of this book, being a former grad student and current exile from the literary academy with no interest in rejoining those stale debates. But what a breath of fresh air it proved to be. Nabokov was, not surprisingly, a keen reader, and he brings all his technical prowess to bear on works from Dickens, Austen, Flaubert, and others. He has the gift of entering a work on its own terms and bringing it to life, not deadening it with some inane theory. I read these lectures alongsid ...more
Sidharth Vardhan
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, russian

“A writer might be a good storyteller or a good moralist, but unless he be an enchanter, an artist, he is not a great writer.”

I have always wanted to know Nabokov the reader – who hates allegories (say Animal Farm), novels where characters act are just what mouth pieces for different kind of opinions (Magic Mountain - not a fan either), moral tales (can’t agree more), allusions to other works and signs and symbolisms unless they are directly related (not a fan either), sentimental readings (ch
Sep 13, 2011 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 11, 2011 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
Oct 06, 2012 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
amin akbari
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
به نام او

پیش از این کتاب کتاب درس گفتارهای ادبیات روس را خوانده بودم که واقعا اثر خوبی بود و حکایت از ذوق و در عین حال دقت بالای ناباکف در مواجهه با اثر ادبی داشت، خصوصا قسمت مربوط به آناکارنینا که تقریبا نیمی از کتاب را به خودش اختصاص داده بود.

من از درسگفتارهای اروپایی فقط پروست و فلوبر را خواندم که این کتاب هم مانند آن کتاب به نکات مهمی در رابطه با این دو شاهکار ادبی اشاره کرده بود.
Guzin Tanyeri
Oct 13, 2016 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
May 05, 2012 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 24, 2007 rated it liked it
for a split second, this made me nostalgic for college. then i recovered my senses.
Steven Peterson
Jun 17, 2009 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
Zebardast Zebardast
«همیشه چیزها در خانه طور دیگری است. موطنِ کهنهٔ انسان، اگر با آگاهی در آن زندگی کند، با آگاهی کامل نسبت به بستگیها و وظیفههایش در برابر دیگران، همیشه تازه است. انسان در واقع تنها از این راه، از راهِ بستگی هاست که آزاد میشود..» گفتگو باکافکا، اثر گوستاو یانوش ...more
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of classic European literature
I've read his lecture on 'Du côté de chez Swann' and the section on being a 'good reader', with which I already was familiar. I'll read the lecture on 'Ulysses' next.
If you are reading or have read any of the novels discussed, you may want to deepen your knowledge with the help of Nabokov's opinions, which sometimes are truly 'strong opinions'. But if you're taking his advice (with a grain of salt), it shouldn't stop you from enjoying a broader perception of one of your classics.
He cites many p
May 01, 2011 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
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leer-en-la-cama
"...En cierto modo, todos estamos sufriendo una caída mortal desde lo alto de nuestro nacimiento a las losas del cementerio, y nos vamos maravillando con la inmortal Alicia ante los dibujos de la pared.Esta capacidad de asombro ante fruslerías —sin importarnos la inminencia del peligro—, estos apartes del espíritu, estas notas a pie de página del libro de la vida, son las formas más elevadas de la conciencia;y es allí, en este estado mental infantil y especulativo, tan distinto del sentido común ...more
Apr 01, 2010 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
Jun 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was my pilot though my first reading of Ulysses. And I cherish the lecture on Madame Bovary.
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
"The isms go; the ist dies; art remains."
The above is quoted directly from this book and in particular is a comment made in reference by Nabokov on Flaubert's Madam Bovary.

This expresses a thought I have had for decades, but lack Nabokov's brilliance eloquence.

The scattered gems that sparkle throughout this book are what kept me reading.
And now I know that the preceding is a hackneyed image, and why it is a ...

What might you be looking for that would bring you to this collection of lectures?

Sheri Fresonke Harper
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nabokov teaches readers about various elements in literature using seven novels familiar to many. The reader need not have read the particular novels to understand the points made about language, structure, theme, style, innovation etc, by the authors of the novels. Nabokov's careful analysis points a reader toward doing their own analyses of what they read and why these novels gain the imagination of readers long enough to last through the question of time. Very interesting and easy to read.
Mar 09, 2013 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
Apr 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was really fun, mostly because I like Nabokov and reading about his thoughts on classic pieces of literature was great. One of the most valuable aspects of this book is that it contains images of his personal notes from his lecture copies.
Über einen längeren Zeitraum möchte ich die einzelnen Vorlesungen und die darin besprochenen Bücher nebeneinander lesen. Den Beginn wird Mansfield Park von Jane Austen machen.
31.10.2015 Und so lese ich abwechselnd einmal in der Vorlesung und im Roman.
31.10.2015 Die Doppellektüre war eine gelungene Veranstaltung. Nabokov macht mit vielen klugen und wunderbar formulierten (unglaublich wunderbar formuliert - unbedingt Nabokov lesen)auf Details und Feinheiten aber auch Beschleunigungen und Auslass
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
Nick Tramdack
Mar 10, 2011 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 07, 2009 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
Apr 07, 2013 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
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"It is instructive to think that there is not a single person in this room, or for that matter in any room in the world, who, at some nicely chosen point in historical space-time would not be put to death there and then, here and now, by a commonsensical majority in righteous rage. The color of ol)e's creed, neckties, eyes, thoughts, manners, speech, is sure to meet somewhere in time or space with a fatal objection from a mob that hates that particular tone. [...] let us bless the freak; for in ...more
Aug 27, 2009 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.
Bhavya Viswarajan
Nov 18, 2015 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.
Sherwood Smith
Probably my favorite book on literary criticism. I reread it often.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • 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
  • Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature - Fiftieth-Anniversary Edition
  • 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 a big interest in chess problems.

Nabokov's Lolita (1955) is frequent
“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.” 466 likes
“Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, and active and creative reader is a rereader.” 247 likes
More quotes…