PRESENTATION: 1984 Redux: The long term materiality of the Kindle infrastructure

May 22nd, 2015 § Comments Off on PRESENTATION: 1984 Redux: The long term materiality of the Kindle infrastructure § permalink

Abstract: The launch of the Kindle in 2007 marked the arrival of the eBook as a marketable phenomenon and in the following years, the eBook marketplace has gone from strength to strength. Amazon has consolidated its position as the market leader through created a complex proprietary infrastructure that has locked users into the Kindle system. This spans the ubiquitous hardware, software, large store and range of services which constitute the Kindle brand.

This has a caveat, as it means that all the data and infrastructure is reliant on Amazon’s continual investment in the Kindle brand. Due to the cloud-based storage of the Kindle’s data and the limited lifespan of the hardware, users are reliant on Amazon’s continual support. This transition is from book-as-object to book-as-service, which has some exciting opportunities but leaves consumers, and book historians, vulnerable to losing important historical data. The removal of data is not without precedent, as a copy of George Orwell was removed from users’ Kindles directly once it was discovered the publisher did not own the rights to the novel. More recently, Amazon discontinued their Kindle Popular Highlights website which offered an annotation corpus of over one million individual highlights, which is now no longer available.

In order to understand the complex materiality of the Kindle’s infrastructure, it is important to understand how it creates a situation in which we have landed into the precarious reliance on Amazon to preserve the infrastructure. The current project explores the precarious materiality of the Kindle infrastructure and the difficulties it presents for contemporary and future book historians who wish to delineate a comprehensive account of digital book culture in the early twenty-first century. As a corollary, the paper will suggest some solutions to the problem that can be undertaken currently including the urgent need to preserve the evidence that is proliferating on the Kindle infrastructure.

PRESENTATION: Twitter as a Site of Worship

September 22nd, 2014 § Comments Off on PRESENTATION: Twitter as a Site of Worship § permalink

Abstract: Robert Darnton’s communication model of the book trade closes with a feedback loop from the reading public back to the author. Traditionally, this would have happened through private correspondence or small-scale public events. The development of large social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter has scaled up these interactions, as well as made them visible to a wider audience, as readers can directly and publicly show their affection and support for their favourite authors.

In recent years, the rise of Twitter has been linked to its successes as a marketing and news network since it functions as a one-way broadcast medium, with many authors using Twitter to engage with an audience. In Twitter parlance, the audience of a twitter count is referred to a “followers,” a quasi-religious term that demonstrates the relationship between the authors and their readers in many interactions. The Twitter platform has also opened up the possibilities for systematic research of reception, as users can mine the large dataset of tweets for mentions of a particular book or author.

While many authors only use their Twitter account for publicity reasons, if indeed, the work is not outsourced, some authors have embraced the medium as a form of communication. Margaret Atwood (@MargaretAtwood, c.450,000 followers), William Gibson (@greatdismal, c.150,000 followers), Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself, c.2,000,000 followers) and E. L. James (@E_L_James, c.450,000 followers) represent four high profile examples of authors using Twitter as both a personal and professional tool. The current project examines the messages sent publicly to the authors as evidence of contemporary readership and the ways in which these interactions demonstrate the reception of twenty-first century authors. The writers’ mixture of tweets about contemporary issues, as well as the creative process and broadcasting some fans’ requests, reveals a new and interesting way for authors to engage with their audience. The data reveals that these authors choose to engage with some elements of their contemporary readership, but other comments go as unanswered “prayers” since the overwhelming volume of requests and messages are unmanageable for an author on their own.

PRESENTATION: Indexes as Hypertext

September 5th, 2014 § Comments Off on PRESENTATION: Indexes as Hypertext § permalink

Abstract: The digital revolution has led to the development of new forms of literature, including hypertext fiction. Hypertext, most commonly known as links on the Internet, is not exclusive to digital media, but instead has a long history in print. One of the ways in which hypertext can appear in print is through creative use of indexes to form a conceptual network on top of the linear text. With reference to three novels—Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, and Steven Hall’s Raw Shark Texts—this talk will demonstrate the ways in which indexes are used in fiction to encourage readers to search through the text to assemble their own interpretation of the text. These innovative uses of indexes in fiction offer a blueprint for the creative appropriations of the index in digital fiction.

POSTER: Marked E-Books and Kindle’s popular highlight culture.

July 10th, 2014 § Comments Off on POSTER: Marked E-Books and Kindle’s popular highlight culture. § permalink

You can find further information about the project here:

Abstract: The current project analyses the evidence of readership available through the public facing popular highlights feature of Amazon’s Kindle platform. In order to be considered a popular highlight, the text must be shared by three users. There are over one million quotations that meet this basic criteria and can be analyzed in similar ways to evidence of marginalia and provenance in book historical research. The present research analyses the popular highlights as a measure of various genre’s popularity as well as observing usage patterns of the highlighting and sharing features.

The static e-book has become embedded in the public’s imagination as an exemplar of the future of reading on the screen. The Kindle is one of the forerunners in the commercial e-book marketplace, encompassing a range of both software and hardware platforms and offering millions of titles. While others have begun to explore the impact of e-book culture, (Galey 2012; Lang 2012; Wu 2013; Thomas & Round 2013), the current project focuses on the traces readers leave directly on their Kindles. Amazon offer tools to share annotations and highlights of their eBooks to replicate print marginalia. The data for popular highlights is shared on a public-facing webpage (, Inc. 2013) that can be collected for analysis. This research offers an approach to the empirical study of reception on a previously unprecedented scale and offers an insight into what users find interesting about the material they are reading.

The data was collected using wget on the Kindle Popular Highlights website, as does not currently offer an API for the dataset. The project focused on the Popular Highlights feature and the metadata pertaining to the book title, author, quotation and number of highlights. While this does not provide evidence of individual readers, it can be used to analyse patterns of readership and marginalia. An initial foray produced the first 100,000 popular highlights (out of a dataset of over 1,000,000 highlights) that were produced by over 8 million shared highlights. Unfortunately this method left many artefacts when converting certain characters, so the data was cleaned and organized.

The initial results revealed some interesting patterns. The most highlighted books were primarily Young Adult (YA) fiction, literary classics, pop science and self-help. Individual passages can be highlighted more than 1,000 times, with a quotation from Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) received over 17,000 highlights. Each genre’s annotations often fit into roughly categorized groups: literary classics and pop science produce pithy aphorisms; self-help books are quoted for their instructions; and YA generally highlighted “spoilers” and dialogue that is central to the novel’s plot. Over 90% of the quotations are under 350 characters, although occasionally readers will highlight a whole page. Since one of the core features of the popular highlight function is the ability to re-use the quotations as tweets, brevity of quotation length is expected and confirmed as 42% of the highlights are tweetable. As the number of highlights fall, the books’ genres tend to become more esoteric and the highlights become fuzzier. Some of these bear the marks of experimenting with the feature or more playful purposes, such as “THE” in the New Oxford American Dictionary receiving 73 highlights.

The analysis comes with a few caveats: (1) the Kindle is only one eBook provider and is not representative of digital reading; (2) it is unknown to what degree this data is representative of reading on the Kindle in general; (3) the data does not currently include 90% of the data; and (4) without a finer breakdown of the users’ demographics, the data can only tell us so much about what the readers are attempting to do through highlighting. Nonetheless, the Kindle Popular Highlights dataset offers a snapshot into the possible ways in which book historical research can be conducted in the early twenty-first century.

References, Inc., 2013. Most Highlighted Passages of All Time. Available at:

Galey, A., 2012. The Enkindling Reciter: E-Books in the Bibliographical Imagination. Book History, 15(1), pp.210–247.

Lang, A. ed., 2012. From Codex to Hypertext: Reading at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century, Amherst and Boston: University of Massachusetts Press.

Thomas, B. & Round, J., 2013. Digital Reading Network. Available at: [Accessed October 27, 2013].

Wu, Y.-H., 2013. Kindling, Disappearing, Reading. , 7(1). Available at: [Accessed October 27, 2013].

PRESENTATION: Reading the Kindle’s (Non-)Readers

June 24th, 2014 § Comments Off on PRESENTATION: Reading the Kindle’s (Non-)Readers § permalink

Abstract: As readers have migrated to eBooks and similar digital forms, there has been a transformation in the manner in which they leave marks on books. With this shift, there has been a movement from the widespread ability to find evidence of individual readers towards an aggregation of this information as a monolithic entity often described as “big data,” offering little discrimination between various people. The Kindle contains a database of several million individual highlights that cannot be analysed in great detail on the individual level, but rather on a global, where all nuances and reasonable analysis become vaguer.

One way in which we can trace the reader in these new forms is by instead looking at the collective markings of a single book. Surprisingly, the most popular book to annotate is the The New Oxford American Dictionary, which has been pre-installed on all the devices sold on the US. Over 1000 people have left annotations on the dictionary, but in an atypical way, characterizing many of Leah Price’s arguments about non-responsive readers. These notes are not close reading dictionary but rather something more complex and social, as a group has formed, primarily of pseudonymous teenagers, who use the dictionary in order to chat in a space that has been unrestricted by their parents or educators.

This paper examines this pocket of activity to the degree that it is representative of all digital reading practices and evidences. As the text is transformed into a social network and data to be mined for a variety of companies, to what degree can we see these readers as representative of the new forms of reading on top of the book rather through or in to it.

“Reading the Kindle’s (Non-)Readers.” Real, ideal or implied…? The Reader in Stylistics. June 2014. University of Nottingham.


June 19th, 2014 § Comments Off on PRESENTATION: Used eBooks § permalink

In lieu of an abstract, in this presentation I looked at the methodological barriers to studying eBooks and how we can reconcile the ability to distant read millions of shared highlights and the lack of access of user’s personal used eBooks.

“Used eBooks.”Digital Reading Network Symposium, June 2014. University of Bournemouth.

Is Book History the Future of Nabokov Studies?

May 2nd, 2014 § Comments Off on Is Book History the Future of Nabokov Studies? § permalink

The following is my contribution to the Nabokov Doctoral Day event. While I hope to return to the questions posed by this paper in future research, I’m posting the talk here as a record of my argument.


[Before embarking on my topic, it is worth briefly reflecting on the processes I took to arrive at it. My initial PhD prospectus was ambitious, outlining a working methodology for exploring the digital annotation of post-War novels including Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire. As I am currently in limbo between submission and examination of a completely different PhD, I am aware of how ambitious this plan was. Nonetheless, my interests have remained with digital humanities, but over the development of my PhD, another field garnered my interest: book history. These two nebulous pseudo-disciplines gel and offer fertile methodological grounds that are still in development. This shift in focus pushed Nabokov outside my primary focus in order to develop new models of (hyper)textuality. Fortunately, there was still room to explore the book history of Pale Fire. If I were to start again now, with the ability to write purely on Nabokov and the necessary resources, the following sketches out my ideal thesis. It also expands upon methodological strengths and weaknesses of the approach for future work.]

Nabokov studies have thus far been largely immaterial, ignoring the problems of publication and reception that create the socio-economic conditions of Nabokov’s works. The field of book history offers a critical vocabulary to enrich Nabokov studies. Book history emerged as a nebulous interdisciplinary activity in the twentieth century in response to the much more conservative field of bibliography. The “New Bibliography” of the early twentieth century resulted in an empirical fussiness towards the idealized state of a great text that overwhelmed the potential to historicize the development of these texts. In particular, the concept that the author was the sole important contribution to the composition of the text jarred against the appearance of many colourful characters who dot the history of the book (e.g. Wynkyn de Worde, Thomas Jefferson, and the Little Giddings community). Book history, on the other hand, revels in the supporting cast—almost to a fault—and exposes the material, socio-economic and intellectual conditions in which texts are produced. In recent decades, work such as Leah Price’s How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain, William Sherman’s Used Books and James Secord’s Victorian Sensation have offered vital evidence of the real reader within the empirical study of the book. These scholar projects refer to pre-1923, or what Matt Kirschenbaum termed “B©,” texts as true book historical research requires access that copyright, archival permissions and belligerent literary estates often prohibit. That is not say that we cannot make a good start towards this with an author who primarily published after year-zero of current copyright protection.

It would be churlish to suggest that good work in this area has not already been undertaken—Maxim Shrayer and Lyndsay Miller’s work on Nabokov’s revision processes, Brian Boyd’s Library of America editions of the American works and Michael Juliar’s extensive enumerative bibliography rank among the most important—but within the field, it is undeniable that critical arguments are rarely built upon the material conditions of his literary output. The idiosyncrasy of referencing conventions and standard editions in the scholarship is one of the most apparent and immediate manifestations of this blindspot. This, however, may all change in the next few years due to an unorthodox catalyst: The Original of Laura. When Dmitri Nabokov decided to publish TOoL in its unfinished form, complete with perforated index cards, this revealed the processes behind his other polished texts. The aesthetic quality of the artifact (for it is hard to call it a novel) is secondary to its importance as a book historical object as we are confronted with the stark reality of not only Nabokov’s revision process, but editorial decisions that make up the final text.This suggested a move in the literary legacy from tightly controlled access to more open and amenable conditions towards reassessing our understanding Nabokov as an actual author in the complexities of the book trade. Early criticism of TOoL has taken the prompt to assess the book historical value of the novel. This critical move is only possible because of TOoL’s unique form, unlike previous posthumous publications, most notably his Lectures on Literature, edited by the domineering Fredson Bowers, a stout disciple of the New Bibliography. While TOoL has been a major catalyst in pushing critical attention in this direction, Nabokov literary output also encourages it. From Lolita onwards, Nabokov’s fiction frequently parodied, questioned and otherwise cajoled all aspects of the book trade. Take the unfinished quality of Lolita, Pale Fire and Ada, which all feature moments where it is clear that the work has not received the careful editing it may have otherwise received it was complete. Take for example, Humbert Humbert’s note for the printer of Lolita: “Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita. Repeat till the page is full, printer,” which is left ignored; and Ada’s fictional editors Ada and Van Veen have also presented their final text with marginal comments to each other intact, such as “Hue or who? Awkward. Reword! (marginal note in Ada Veen’s late hand)” embedded directly into the textual world. In Pale Fire, this can be seen in the juxtaposition between “Insert before a professional” and “A professional proofreader has carefully rechecked the printed text of the poem.” The unfinished quality of these works prompts readers to delve further into their composition and reception.

If we choose to approach Nabokov studies with a book historical tint, a whole range of new questions become apparent. The methodologies central to book historical practice offer a variety of new approaches to Nabokov including, but not limited to, looking at composition processes, the role of editors, his sales figures, and the way in which he was received by a popular audience. Today, I will primarily take a holistic view by approaching at the macro-scale of modelling the book trade. The most famous model of the book trade is Robert Darnton’s communication circuit, which posits three significant prompts for the study of book history: (1) the continuous link between reception and (re)publication; (2) the importance of the socio-economic factors around the text; and (3) the role of pirates, smugglers and other unsavoury agents in shaping the text’s reception.

Immediately, we can see case studies of when these would be applicable to Nabokov Studies:

(1) The prestige of Lolita in allowing Nabokov’s older texts to become republished and translated with the addition of textual apparatus, leading to sustained fame that lasted throughout his career; the fight for rights to Nabokov’s publications; Strong Opinions originating in order to fulfill a contract with McGraw-Hill; and the drawn-out public debate surrounding the publication of TOoL;

(2) Nabokov depositing selected manuscripts at the Library of Congress for tax break reasons and holding back the manuscript of Ada due to perceived worth; the eventual publication of TOoL;the initial censorship of Lolita; the scant appearances of Nabokov’s literary works in anthologies; and Nabokov’s careful preservation of a persona in all public appearances; and

(3) The smuggling of Lolita into America and other texts into the USSR; Girodais’s impact on the manuscript of Lolita when removing many unnecessary French phrases; the widespread circulation of pirate editions of Nabokov’s works in the former-USSR and on the web; and Nabokov’s general opinion of editors and publishers despite the evidence that they often helped improve the text.

This list is potentially endless and offers a plethora of new avenues for exploration in Nabokov studies. My contribution to the growing body of book historical research is a refined model of the book trade reflecting the importance of hypertext in the processes of composition and reception. The model  is the shape of an hourglass to show the importance of a physical manifestation of a text in the process, as opposed to its disappearance in Darnton’s circuit. The two axes represent the most fundamental concepts of the hourglass: on the vertical axis, time, and the horizontal axis, meaning. The practical implication of this is the model displays the flow of meaning from author to reader via the text. This can never be reversed as compositional meaning is completely different to receptional meaning, even when the author makes a comment post-publication, such as Nabokov’s repeated assertions about the authorship debate in Pale Fire that are completely contradictory. Moreover, the hourglass is not cyclical as a new version of the text derives from the original but does not recreate it. The model’s also develops a framework for critiquing the reception of text more effectively than the other models of the book trade that conflate this multifaceted aspect to an after-thought in book history. This offers a robust mechanism to look at the development of a text such as Pale Fire, which has a substantial composition and reception history, although I want to focus on one particular aspect: reprints and appropriations.

When Pale Fire was published in 1962, it had undergone a long gestation period dating back not only to the first index cards dated 1957, but also to the 1930s with “Ultima Thule” and “Solus Rex.” The composition process is relatively invisible as we only have archival evidence for the manuscript, so work-in-progress and galley proofs, all of which show Nabokov’s development of the central themes of the novel, but not to a degree that can satisfactorily account for the changes between manuscript and published novel. This can be supplemented by Nabokov’s correspondence discussing the novel and two pre-publication extracts: “King’s Gambit,” a revised version of the note to line 130 that was due for publication in Harper’s Bazaar, but was pulled because of creative differences; and “The Late Mr. Shade,” an early version of the Foreword published in Harper’s magazine. From this, we can reconstruct some of the early development of the novel including, most enticingly, three major changes:

(1) “your favorite” appears in the manuscript as “my favorite;”

(2) Goldsworth is a professor rather than a judge at an early point in the manuscript; and

(3) “See my notes to line 949-999” warps into “see my note to line 999” to “note to line 991.”

While these offer intriguing alternate versions of Pale Fire, my interest lies instead in the changes that have occurred in the development of the novel through its complex lifespan. The traces of the reception process are some of the most interesting parts of this model to emerge, which can only be seen through close comparison of states of the text and reader’s reactions to the text. Some of these completely change the reader’s understanding of the text, such as Penguin’s decision to remove the Kindle version’s index as Amazon provide ‘superior’ forms of automated indexing through their software packages. Audiobook and radio-play editions of the text also offer interesting variations on a novel that relies on its bookishness to generate meanings. Through tracing the digitization process of certain texts we can also begin to deduce which versions copy each other. Most egregiously, Shannon Chamberlain’s version has been copied by GS Lipon, which can be seen through the scanning mistakes unique to both editions, most explicitly characterized in the transformation of “the turf” to “the turd” to create the ludicrous “with incredulous fingers he picks up from the turd that compact ovoid body.” This brief sketch demonstrates the importance of remembering the text is only a version rather than the definitive edition.

A further significant factor when considering the transmission history of Pale Fire is the rhetorical significance of the novel’s hypertext structure. There have been at least six unauthorized editions of Pale Fire on the Web, and many more that were never shared. Recent eBook editions have also included basic hypertext mechanisms. The reception of the novel has been intertwined with the hypertext network Nabokov constructed within the novel and readers have tried to appropriate this with their web-based editions. The hypertext poetics of Nabokov’s novel are complex and not easily represented in the mechanisms of the Web, so many of these versions alter the structure of the novel. The novel requires a delicate balance between the poem and commentary, since Kinbote creates explicit links from the commentary to the poem, but never the other way round. The technology of hypertext could also be better exploited, as a digital edition could track the reception of the novel through the reader’s pathways. This empirical data could test the claims of critics who suggest there are standard ways of traversing the novel.

While this may be exciting new areas for exploration, there are several caveats at adopting such an approach. Most readily, such research needs the availability of archival research, and this presents several problems. The material is scattered over the US, mainly in the Library of Congress and New York Public Library, but also spread in various locations and in publisher’s archives to document his complex history with various publishers. This is then ignoring the problem that much of this material either has not been uncovered or simply does not exist. The value of the Lolita manuscript will forever be unknown, to name the most obvious example. The third problem is the effort required in order to undertake serious book historical work, which may require tracking down multiple pressings and searching in the archive for countless hours to find little fruitful evidence, given the patchiness of Nabokov’s archives. Despite these potential problems, book history promises to be a fruitful approach to Nabokov studies.

PRESENTATION: Nabokov’s Compositional TOoL

April 5th, 2014 § Comments Off on PRESENTATION: Nabokov’s Compositional TOoL § permalink

Abstract: When Dmitri Nabokov finally decided to publish his father’s famous unfinished last novel, The Original of Laura (TOoL), he took the unusual decision of presenting it as a facsimile of Nabokov’s index cards along with a transcription. In the aftermath of TOoL’s publication, the reception of Nabokov’s artistry has not shifted, and many critics have shunned the publication. Although the fragments reveal Nabokov’s declining power, they offer a powerful entry point to Nabokov’s mode of composition to the popular imagination. The original edition of the fragments encourages this behaviour as the cards are perforated, so the reader can remove the cards from their binding and shuffle them into any order they wish. The materiality of the text confronts the reader with ontological questions about Nabokov’s processes of composition.

The current paper argues that the value of TOoL lies in reading it as material evidence marketed to the mass public rather than remaining available only to those who can access the original. While the materials in the Library of Congress are now available for any interested party, unless they have access to the Library or funds to receive microfilm copies, the manuscripts are inaccessible. TOoL is an entry point into understanding Nabokov’s mode of composition. For an author with such an aura around his genius and his reluctance to conform to the norms of the book trade, such a document unravels the compositional artifices.

The facsimile of TOoL bear material witness to Nabokov’s hypertextual composition method, as the cards are ordered in a multi-linear fashion rather than conforming to an ascending number system. Several of the index cards feature rough drafts or material that has been worked in elsewhere, offering further insights into Nabokov’s material reliance on index cards to compose his complexly structured novels. Thus, Dmitri’s Nabokov’s choice of presentation for his father’s unfinished novel reveal new perceptions of Nabokov’s computational method of composition to the wider public, uncovering another way in which Nabokov can be connected to the history of hypertext.

’Efface, expunge, erase, delete, rub out, wipe out, obliterate’: Nabokov’s composition TOoL. Vladimir Nabokov & Composition Panel. NeMLA. April 2014. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

PRESENTATION: Vulnerable Textuality in the E-Book Marketplace

March 22nd, 2014 § Comments Off on PRESENTATION: Vulnerable Textuality in the E-Book Marketplace § permalink


The rise of the Kindle has marked the appearance of the first authorized e-books of many post-World War Two authors. As e-reading continues to grow in popularity, this allows a new audience to discover older works due to the affordances and availability of these e-books. Many of these novels, however, have not previously been digitized and are wrought by the negative traces of digitisation well known to academic and professional digitization projects although these are often not discussed within the context of traditionally published e-books.

This project assesses the vulnerable textuality of a single author on a single platform: Vladimir Nabokov’s Kindle e-books. Apart from posthumously published works, including 2008’s controversial The Original of Laura, most of Nabokov’s works were originally authored, edited and published at least 40 years ago, with some now approaching their centenary anniversary. The remediation of these texts is problematic and error-strewn, not only because the source versions, the Penguin mass market paperbacks have varied in quality, lacking at time forewords and indexes central to the fiction, but also because of the discrepancies with their corresponding print versions. The paper will read these errors and markers of print culture within the digital edition to demonstrate the complex forms of material textuality present in the Kindle.

“Vulnerable Textuality in the E-Book Marketplace.” Society for Textual Scholarship. March 2014. University of Washington, Seattle.

PRESENTATION: The Possible Worlds of Pale Fire

July 3rd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Abstract: Arguably the greatest debate in Pale Fire scholarship has been the problem of the internal authorship of the poem and commentary. The proposed solutions to this puzzle range from either John Shade or Charles Kinbote as the author of the entire text to more recent models involving influences from the afterlife proposed by Brian Boyd and René Alladaye. Nabokov’s own responses to the indeterminate nature of the authorship suggest an unclear position as he posits two conflicting opinions in different interviews, thus denying the traditional authorized single solution often associated with many of his other works. The literature on the internal authorship of Pale Fire has focused on using these fractures to propose a solution, this paper instead analyses the faultlines in the narrative world as sites of indeterminacy. Is there a limit to the number of characters we can claim as author? Where are the places at which this indeterminacy flourishes? These internal debates can be formally analysed by use of Possible Worlds Theory, introduced to literary studies by Thomas Pavel and Lubomír Doležel and more recently expanded by Marie-Laure Ryan, who, in Possible Worlds, Artificial Intelligence, and Narrative Theory suggests Pale Fire represents a destabilised Textual Actual World, whereby the reader is required to reconstruct the narrative’s internal consistency from what little concrete information we can garner from the text. Possible Worlds Theory formalizes the worlds in which the narrative works and can demonstrate the ontological dissonance in Kinbote’s assertions throughout the commentary which have led to many hypotheses regarding the novel’s content. Through this theoretical approach, the worlds of Pale Fire’s potential authorship can be analysed with regards to their stability. The method demonstrates the extent to which authorship attribution can be justified and why there will be no definitive solution emerging in forthcoming Nabokov scholarship.

Forthcoming ”The Possible Worlds of Pale Fire.” Indeterminacy in Nabokov Panel. MLA. January 2014. Chicago