PRESENTATION: Inverting Kinbote’s Index

January 6th, 2012 § 0 comments

Abstract: Seventy percent of links within Pale Fire arise from the index, reasserting the importance of the index as a hypertextual device in the novel. The index is regularly dismissed or lauded for its unreliability and the (lack of) insight it imparts to the distrusting reader, who have suffered through the rest of Kinbote’s commentary. The index, however, cannot be overlooked, since it is one of the most interesting and rare paratextual devices in the history of the novel. Jay David Bolter posits that the index, as an archetypal paratextual device, is supremely enabling for the active reader, as it allows them to reconfigure the structure of the text towards the themes which interest them most. This paper will posit that, just as Kinbote’s commentary does eventually elucidate most of the key references in ‘Pale Fire’, but displaced by Kinbote’s agenda, the index can be inverted and subverted by the reader in order to gain a greater understanding to the novel. The index enables the reader to explore Kinbote’s linear narrative in a manner that avoids being simply propelled towards the next part of Kinbote’s delusions, dissecting Kinbote’s claims as to what the note elucidates. I will argue in this paper that the inversion of the index is an important part of both forming a solid interpretation of the novel, but also encourages the transition between a linear and non-linear reading more so than the commentary, and thus creates the Nabokovian good rereader.

Simon Rowberry. ”Inverting Kinbote’s Index.” Nabokov Upside Down. January 2012. University of Auckland, New Zealand

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