Today I finally got my copy of the handbook with my Lolita essay in it. You can read more about the handbook, which is edited by my husband and his colleague, here. You can also buy the handbook, in physical form or as an e-book, there, and you can buy individual e-chapters there as well.
Basically the handbook tries to examine the role of affect in understanding literature. In doing so, it brings together several different strains of textual criticism, especially affect theory and cognitive science. Although affect theory has its roots mainly in poststructuralism, while cognitive science is rooted in the scientific method, and particularly the advances made in the last two decades in such fields as neuroscience and evolutionary biology, both branches analyze our reactions to texts, and it is useful to explore overlaps between them as well as areas of conflict.
My essay uses Deleuze and Guattari, on whom many contemporary affect theorists draw, to examine fascist and microfascist elements treated in Lolita, but I argue that their theories, as delineated in A Thousand Plateaus, cannot account for the text’s and Nabokov’s insistence on possibilities of transcendence through suffering and love. There is a basis for these possibilities in the psychological phenomenon of altruism born of suffering (ABS), which is supported by neurological studies of altruism.
I believe my overall argument is strong, but I am especially happy about some details of my support for it. I present a reasonable and, as far as I know, new, explanation of the relationship between Nabokov’s Lolita and the “Lolita” by Heinz von Lichberg, who became an enthusiastic Nazi. I am also, as far as I know, the first to notice a number of religious references toward the end of the novel that support my argument about possibilities of limited transcendence through ABS in Lolita.
Further, having proofread the whole handbook, I can say that the other essays are also strong. I hope scholars will agree that this volume is a wide-ranging and expert treatment of cutting-edge literary and scientific theory on affect and that these essays constitute a valuable contribution to literary criticism.
Photo of The Palgrave Handbook of Affect Studies and Textual Criticism by me.