PRESENTATION: Networked Literature: Hypertextuality inside and outside Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire

February 2nd, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Abstract: Ted Nelson, creator of hypertext, defines a literature as a set of interconnected documents. Literary fiction is an apt demonstration of this because novels tend to be intertextual and share motifs. In this regard, Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire acts as a microcosm of literature, displaying many forms of hypertextuality apparent within literature and literary criticism, which have shared a symbiotic relationship since pre-Gutenberg times. The novel takes the form of the late John Shade’s final poem and commentary supplied by madman Charles Kinbote, which assumes roughly eighty percent of the novel, overshadowing the poem, the supposed focus of the text. Kinbote’s commentary reflects literary criticism, making explicit references to the poem, itself through cross-references and other criticism. Nabokov also plants ‘search nodes’ in the text to supplement these connections, whereby the reader has to hunt down clues in order to probe enigmata within the text, a form of hypertextuality identical to search engines. There is also a secondary network within literature, which exists without the outer shell of criticism, that of intertextuality and motifs, also either visible through explicit references to texts or hidden. All of this can be mapped out within Pale Fire but equally applies to the entirety of literature because of the symbiotic relationship between literary fiction and criticism. By using this framework, we can analyze Kinbote as a critic within the network of fiction and criticism. Kinbote often resorts to personal connections to the text, overawing the poem and its potential over any other pertinent meanings. This paper will explore if Kinbote’s position in the text as a critic requires him to enter into the network of literature to become a successful critic.

Simon Rowberry. ”Networked Literature: Hypertextuality inside and outside Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire.” RKE Symposium. February 2011. University of Winchester