The President of IVNS, Lara Delage-Toriel, has announced the 2021 Nabokov Prizes.
The laureates of the 2021 Prizes are as follows, with judges' commendations:
Dieter Zimmer Prize for Best Post-Graduate Essay
Amital Nemzer (under the supervision of Leona Toker): "'A Birch-Lime-Willow-Aspen-Poplar-Oak Man': Images of Trees, Temporospatial Liminality, and the Metaphysical in the Works of Vladimir Nabokov"
The 2021 Dieter Zimmer Prize goes to Amital Nemzer for her essay "'A Birch-Lime-Willow-Aspen-Poplar-Oak Man”: Images of Trees, Temporospatial Liminality, and the Metaphysical in the Works of Vladimir Nabokov." The essay shows the importance of trees, a feature of Nabokov’s settings that has never been studied in depth. Thoroughly familiar with both Nabokov’s texts and with prior scholarship, Nemzer’s thoughtful and informed analysis has made it clear that we take Nabokov’s trees for granted at our own risk. While Nemzer accounts for the presence of a number of tree species in Nabokov’s work, both judges were especially impressed by her analysis of poplars and liminality.
Ellen Pifer Prize for Best Undergraduate Dissertation
Sophia Houghton (under the supervision of Stanislav Shvabrin): “Fated Text, Autonomous Design: Aubrey Beardsley’s Spectral Legacy in Lolita”
Ms. Houghton's "Fated Text, Autonomous Design" is a superb combination of original research and meticulous analysis. Her essay proves that Nabokov's Lolita is linked in subtle and revealing ways to Beardsley's intriguing work. In short, Ms. Houghton's essay richly deserves the Pifer Prize for this important contribution to Nabokov scholarship.
The Gennady Barabtarlo Prize for Best Article
Susan Elizabeth Sweeney, "Visual Agnosia in Nabokov: When One of the Senses Can't Make Sense," in The Five Senses in Nabokov's Works, edited by Marie Bouchet, Julie Loison-Charles, and Isabelle Poulin (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), pp. 123-38.
Among a large number of excellent and path-breaking nominations, Susan Elizabeth Sweeney’s article stood out for both its originality and its rigor. This illuminating essay explores multiple varieties of distorted visual perception in Nabokov’s works, producing subtle and suggestive analogies with specific neurological diagnoses. While not arguing, and not needing to argue, that Nabokov specifically knew of precise conditions such as “visual agnosia,” “associative agnosia,” “apperceptive agnosia,” “color agnosia,” “Capgras delusion,” and more, Sweeney elegantly demonstrates that episodes of distorted perception in Nabokov’s fiction are enriched by thinking of them in relation to various cognitive and perceptive diagnoses. She shows that these episodes are particularly important for readers’ experiences of a given text, causing them “to engage in a series of responses to it: accepting . . . , questioning . . . , and finally, perceiving what the protagonist himself does not see.” One of the keenest insights this brings Sweeney is the startling recognition that when Humbert is reunited with Dolores at Camp Q, her failure to conform to his remembered image of her may be the only time in the novel he really sees Dolores, the actual, non-solipsized girl, as she is. As Sweeney writes, “By compelling readers to experience, vicariously, the forms of visual agnosia evoked in a novel’s narration, Nabokov leads them to be come more conscious of their own perceptions, assumptions, expectations, and discernments.”
Jane Grayson Prize for Best First Book:
Alexander Spektor, The Reader as Accomplice: Narrative Ethics in Dostoevsky and Nabokov
The judges selected this book for the Grayson Prize because it places Nabokov’s work within the context of a bracing new analysis of both the function of authorship in Dostoevsky’s work and Bakhtin’s celebrated principles of polyphony and dialogue. By showing that these concepts are inextricably enmeshed with violence, Alexander Spektor deconstructs a recurrent dichotomy in Nabokov studies: the distinction between life and art. Nabokov often punishes protagonists who try to fix other characters with an objectifying aesthetic gaze; he undermines their authorial ambitions, insisting that only he, the true author, can exercise such power. Spektor shows that this tactic’s inherent contradictions call Nabokov’s own writing into question: “by revealing the unethical nature of the creative activity of his narrators, Nabokov compromises the authorial function itself.” The Reader as Accomplice supports its claims with innovative readings of several novels, particularly Despair and Bend Sinister.
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