The Origins of Nabokov's Idea of Artistic Play

Thomas Karshan

in Vladimir Nabokov and the Art of Play

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199603985
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725333 | DOI:

Series: Oxford English Monographs

The Origins of Nabokov's Idea of Artistic Play

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This chapter establishes the direct and indirect sources for Nabokov's idea of artistic play. It begins by setting out the history of the idea that art and the world are play in Kant, Schiller, and Nietzsche. It then traces the dissemination of these ideas in the nineteenth century, through de Stäel, Cousin, Coleridge, Poe, Baudelaire, Arnold, Swinburne, Pater, and Wilde, and in Russian through Tolstoy and, especially, Dostoevsky. It then shows how Nabokov may have learned of these ideas directly. While in Yalta in 1917–19 he studied under Maximilian Voloshin, who was fascinated with the Nietzschean idea of play, and read Andrey Bely, whose Petersburg is a study in Kantian and Nietzschean concepts of play. Later, in Berlin from 1922 on, Nabokov came into contact with a group of émigré thinkers who directly or indirectly expressed post-Kantian ideas of aesthetic play. The most important was his early mentor Iulii Aikhenvald, but other significant figures were Grigory Landau, Fyodor Stepun, and Sergei Hessen.

Keywords: Nabokov; play; aesthetics; Kant; Schiller; Nietzsche; aestheticism; Symbolism; Voloshin; Bely; Aikhenvald; Russian émigrés; Berlin

Chapter.  16314 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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