PRESENTATION: Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire and the Problem of Interface

September 8th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Abstract: Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire (1962) has a long and complex history of remediation dating back to Ted Nelson’s apocryphal early hypertext demonstration using Pale Fire in 1969, as well as being the subject of two artist’s books and a radio play. In the last 20 years, several unauthorized versions of Nabokov’s text have been produced for the Web in both English and Russian, as well as a couple of more recent authorized e-book editions and several experiments that were only publically acknowledged, but not shared. The one constant amongst these digitization projects was the feeling that here was a novel that cried out to become an electronic hypertext. This paper will trace the novel’s history of digital remediation with a particular focus on the use of interface by the amateurs, and a handful of professionals, who are trying to reproduce and enhance the network present in Nabokov’s novel. Through doing so, they have not used scholarly mark-up such as the TEI standards, but rather present the text through a variety of linking mechanisms approximating the possibilities of a digital edition of the text. Since Nabokov’s works are still protected by copyright, these editions represent the best current chance to understand how one of the most frequently cited print-based hypertexts can be translated into the digital medium. Much of the paratextual complexity of Pale Fire has been undermined through these remediations and this paper will question to what extent it is possible to represent this complexity on the screen.

Simon Rowberry. ”Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire and the Problem of Interface.” Digital Humanities Congress. September 2012. University of Sheffield