Vladimir Nabokov

Prizes and grants for Nabokov students, scholars, and writers

International Vladimir Nabokov Society Prizes

In 2018, the International Vladimir Nabokov Society established a group of prizes generously funded by the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation. The first four rounds of prizes (2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023) have been awarded and the winners of these prizes are listed below. IVNS is now accepting submissions for its 2024 round of prizes. Applications are encouraged for all eligible work.

Administration and Funding: These prizes are administered, selected, and awarded by the International Vladimir Nabokov Society, and funded by the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation. In all cases they will be awarded only where there is work of sufficient merit. In the case when two winners share one prize, the prize money will be shared between them. 

Timing: Prizes awarded in 2024 will be for work either submitted (in the case of undergraduate and postgraduate essays, theses and chapters), examined and accepted (in the case of the best dissertation prize) in 2023 or 2024, or published (in the case of the other prizes) in the calendar year 2023, except for the Jane Grayson and Brian Boyd Prizes which are awarded every two years and every three years, respectively.

Language: Submissions can be made in Russian, French, and English.

Submission: All academic work and publications to be considered for prizes need to have reached the judges’ attention by June 25. Please contact the President and Vice-President of the IVNS, Marie Bouchet and Matt Roth, nabokovprizes@yahoo.com

Announcement: The prizes will be announced in December 2024 on this website and on Nabokv-L, the Nabokov listserv.


Ellen Pifer Prize for Best Undergraduate Student Essay on Nabokov 

Awarded annually for an undergraduate essay between 2500-5000 words, submitted for assessment at their institutions in 2023 or 2024. Value $200. Nominations (including self-nominations) should be sent to the President and Vice-President of the IVNS at nabokovprizes@yahoo.com.

Named in honor of American Nabokov scholar Ellen Pifer.

2023: The prize is shared by two winners: Song Yuhong, “The Language and Sight in Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading,” and Erika Massimo, “The Three Minus One System: A Comparison Between Anna Karenina and Ada.”

Judges’ comments: This strong entry from Song Yuhong of Shanghai International Studies University casts fresh light on Invitation to a Beheading. The essay carefully tracks Cincinnatus’s painful strivings towards a free and independent speech which might grant him escape from the prison of the material world. It shows how Cincinnatus tries to develop his own language out of rudimentary rhythmic movements and tappings, and yet that these primordial forms of language cannot grant him escape because of their intrinsic ambiguity. Ultimately, Yuhong argues – and this is new – that the novel indicates that sight can offer freedom where language fails. This conclusion is enlightening not only about this novel but about all of Nabokov’s oeuvre, with its remarkable visual brilliance and specificity. A particular strength of the essay is the work it does with some close readings of particular phrases – ‘you use your tunnel’, and ‘by myself’ – which, as Yuhong shows – indicate Cincinnatus’s efforts to gain autonomy over language. These perceptions are especially impressive in a student writing about a language in which they are not native. The essay is also closely reasoned, aware of potential objections, and full with careful qualifications to the main thesis.

2021: Sophia Houghton (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) for “Fated Text, Autonomous Design: Aubrey Beardsley’s Spectral Legacy in Lolita

2020: Alisa Shimoyama (University of East Anglia, UK) for “Reality and Fiction in Nabokov’s Last Three Completed Novels”

2019: Matt Walker (Ohio State University) for ‘“Being Aware of Being Aware of Being”: Nabokov’s Invitation to the Beyond”’. 


Dieter E. Zimmer Prize for Best Postgraduate Work on Nabokov

Awarded annually, to the best work on Nabokov done at the graduate (but pre-ABD) level in 2023 and 2024. Graduate-course essays and Master's theses encouraged. Master's theses will be accepted up to a maximum of 40 000 words. Doctoral-dissertation chapters or accepted-for-publication essays do not qualify for this prize. Value $1500.

Named in honor of German Nabokov scholar, translator, and editor Dieter E. Zimmer.

2023: Sydney Stotter, “'Objects in the Photograph May Be Closer Than They Appear': The Photorealistic and Photo-fantastic in Vladimir Nabokov’s The Gift and Invitation to a Beheading”

Judges’ comments: Stotter's analysis of the ekphrastic treatment of photography offers an innovative approach which the author integrates very well into her chosen theoretical framework. Stotter provides the reader with new insights into the function of photographic images in Nabokov's work and discusses them convincingly within the context of Nabokovian themes. Entering into unchartered terrain, Stotter's paper has the potential of opening new roads for future research.

2022: Charlotte Lamontagne (Université Paris Cité), for “Listening to Lolita” (MA dissertation)

2021: Avital Nemzer (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) for "'A Birch-Lime-Willow-Aspen-Poplar-Oak Man': Images of Trees, Temporospatial Liminality, and the Metaphysical in the Works of Vladimir Nabokov"

2020: Luke Sayers (Baylor University, USA) for “‘America’s Russian’: Vladimir Nabokov and the Cultural Cold War”

2019: Erik Eklund (University of Nottingham), for ‘“A Green Lane in Paradise”: Eschatology and Theurgy in Humbert Humbert’s Lolita’


Zoran Kuzmanovich Prize for Best PhD Dissertation on Nabokov

Awarded annually for the best 2023 dissertation predominantly (at least 50%) on Nabokov. Eligibility is based on year of formal submission/acceptance of dissertation and conferral of degree. Value $1500.

This prize honors the support given to young scholars by  American Nabokov scholar Zoran Kuzmanovich through his editorial work at Nabokov Studies, at MLA conferences, and in other ways, including establishing and funding the original PhD prize as the Kuzmanovich Family Prize. 

First award:

2017 Award: Constantine Muravnik, Nabokov's Philosophy of Art (excerpt)

2019: Brendan Nieubuurt, "Flesh Made World: Inscription and the Embodied Self in Osip Mandel'shtam and Vladimir Nabokov" (Columbia University 2018), and Agnès Edel-Roy,“'Une ‘démocratie magique': Politique et littérature dans les romans de Vladimir Nabokov” (Université Paris Est, 2018).

Rilke’s ninth Duino elegy speaks of “Things which live by perishing.” Nieubuurt surefootedly locates the traces of such self-inscribing perishings in Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading and Mandelstam’s The Egyptian Stamp. Through  Bergson’s theory of embodied being, Nieubuurt theorizes each writer’s “ontological exile” and offers an analysis of Mandel’shtam work that not only points out the similarity of the strategies Nabokov and Mandel’shtam deployed to resist being mired in the superficial reality of a Sovietized world but also explains why at various times Mandel’shtam’s poetry was a bedside companion for both Vladimir and Vera Nabokov.’

Agnès Edel-Roy’s PhD dissertation renews our understanding of Nabokov in relation to politics and to the questions of tyranny and control, arguing in favor of the relevance of Nabokov’s work today. Edel-Roy characterizes Nabokov as an author who favors emancipation, celebrates freedom and sees literature as a form of democracy. The “magic democracy” of fiction in the title is a quote from Nabokov’s lecture on Dickens. Edel-Roy’s work shows excellent knowledge of Nabokov’s Russian, French and American texts and contexts, as well as of Nabokov criticism in Russian, French and English. Building on existing research in Nabokov studies, Edel-Roy’s reading is a plea for better historicizing and contextualizing Nabokov within the 20thand the 21stcenturies. Her ambition is not only to read between the lines of Nabokov’s pronouncements about his work, but also to engage in a dialogue with Nabokov scholarship. Agnès Edel-Roy’s dissertation is ambitious and impressive in its scope and richness. The vastness, nuance and quality of her knowledge of Nabokov’s work, its reception and historical contexts are simply astounding. For these reasons, she amply deserves to be the co-recipient of the Zoran Kuzmanovich Prize for the Best PhD Dissertation on Nabokov.’


Gennady Barabtarlo Best Essay Prize

Awarded annually for the best 2023 academic article or book chapter on Nabokov, based on nominal publication date of journal/book (latest date of year-range, if multi-year). Value $500.

Named in honor of Russian-American Nabokov scholar and editor, Gennady Barabtarlo

2023: Erik Eklund, “’The Name of God has Priority’: ‘God’ and the Apophatic Element in Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire," Literature and Theology, Volume 36, Issue 3, September 2022, Pages 298–315.

Judges’ comments: Erik Eklund’s “‘The Name of God Has Priority’: ‘God’ and the Apophatic Element in Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire” builds on the foundations of Gennady Barabtarlo’s investigations of the writer’s intuitions of the otherworld. Going beyond the ludic facade of Charles Kinbote’s (quasi-)theological musings, in his erudite essay Eklund contextualizes and explicates the significance of St. Thomas Aquinas’s and St. Augustine’s thought for our appreciation of the novel. Eklund astutely juxtaposes the theological practice of affirmation through negation with John Shade’s agnostic protestations, producing an innovative reading of Kinbote’s note to line 549.

2022: Winner: Jose Vergara, "Vladimir Nabokov: Translating the Ghosts of the Past," from his book All Future Plunges to the Past (Cornell UP, 2021) 

Honourable Mention: Lara Delage-Toriel, "A Tactile Sensation is a Blind Spot: Nabokov’s Aesthetics of Touch," in M. Bouchet et al. (eds), The Five Senses in Nabokov’s Work (2020) 


2021: 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.

2020: Tatyana Gershkovich (Carnegie Mellon University, USA) for "Suspicion on Trial: Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata and Nabokov’s 'Pozdnyshev’s Address'" in PMLA 134.3 (2019): 459-74. 

2019: Stephen Blackwell (University of Tennessee, Knoxville) for his article, ‘Calendar Anomalies, Pushkin and Aesthetic Love in Nabokov’, The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 96, No. 3 (July 2018), pp. 401-431.


Jane Grayson Best First Book Prize

Starting in 2023, the prize will be awarded every two years for a first monograph that makes a significant contribution to Nabokov studies. Collections of essays are not eligible. Books constituting, substantially, a published dissertation previously awarded the Zoran Kuzmanovich Prize are not eligible for the Jane Grayson Prize. The Jane Grayson Prize will be awarded next in 2024 for a book published between 2022-2023. 

Value $1500. 

Named in honor of British Nabokov scholar, Jane Grayson.

First award of the Nabokov First Book Prize (as the biennial Samuel Schuman Prize, funded by the Kuzmanovich Family trust):

2017 Award (for books 2015-16): Julia Trubikhina, The Translator's Doubts: Nabokov and the Ambiguity of Translation

2022: Robert Alter, Nabokov and the Real World (Princeton, 2021).

The referees of the 2022 Jane Grayson Prize find Robert Alter’s Nabokov and the World: Between Appreciation and Defense (Princeton University Press, 2021) inspiring in a meaningful and invigorating way. Apart from being an unconventional tribute to the writer, it is also a contemplation of Nabokov’s art which points the reader towards in-depth, investigative reading and re-reading. Alter has his eyes fixed on the text and the extra-textual reality behind that text; he honors the multilayered structure of Nabokovian narrative; he appreciates the tragic underpinnings of Nabokov’s wit, thus making those who may yet have to discover Nabokov’s depth look in the right direction. This prize recognizes Robert Alter’s contribution to the field of Nabokov studies, a contribution the magnitude of which becomes apparent to the reader of this book.

2021: Alexander Spektor (University of Georgia) for The Reader as Accomplice: Narrative Ethics in Dostoevsky and Nabokov (Northwestern UP, 2020)


2020: Awarded jointly to

Andrei Babikov (Alexander Solzhenitsyn House of Russian Abroad, Moscow, Russian Federation) for Прочтение Набокова. Изыскания и материалы (Perusing Nabokov: Studies and Materials). 

Stanislav Shvabrin (The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA) for Between Rhyme and ReasonVladimir Nabokov, Translation, and Dialogue.

2019: Michael Rodgers (Open University, UK) for his monograph Nabokov and Nietzsche: Problems and Perspectives (Bloomsbury, 2018).  


Brian Boyd Prize for Best Second Book on Nabokov 

Awarded every three years for a second book, at least 50% on Nabokov, by someone who has already published a first book predominantly on Nabokov. If the book includes previously published articles, they should be recent and united by the book’s over-arching theme. Collections of essays are not eligible. Value $1000.  The Brian Boyd Prize was awarded in 2019 for work published 2016 – 2018 and in 2022 for work published 2019 – 2021. It will be awarded again in 2025 for work published 20222024. 

Named in honor of New Zealand Nabokov scholar, Brian Boyd.

2022: Dana Dragunoiu (Carleton University, Canada) for Vladimir Nabokov and the Art of Moral Acts (Northwestern University Press, 2021).

From a field of very strong nominations, the winner is Dana Dragunoiu’s Vladimir Nabokov and the Art of Moral Acts. The judges found this to be a brave, creative treatment of ground well-prepared by earlier scholars interested in the ethical side of Nabokov, beginning with Ellen Pifer’s classic Nabokov and the Novel. The ethical–aesthetic and reality–artifice dichotomies are just about the main contentions posed by Nabokov, and in the chivalry/courtesy model Dragunoiu has lighted upon a cap which fits most of the oeuvre, which gets to the heart of the matter, and which doesn’t duck problematic and sensitive topics; it gives the feeling of serving as much more than mere intellectual entertainment. Here is a book with consequential stakes (as the stakes of courtesy are so often consequential in the works she elucidates). The judges appreciate the tact with which Dragunoiu draws attention to Nabokov’s potentially negative anti-social traits, and to his awareness of them, without feeling it incumbent on her to defend or accuse. The way she uses the chivalry/courtesy model to put Nabokov’s works into unexpected conversations with the Gawain poet, Pushkin, Shakespeare, Kant, Tolstoy, and Proust brings readers to a significantly enriched understanding of Nabokov’s moral and ethical concerns, and the traditions he draws from in engaging them.

2019:  Stephen Blackwell (University of Tennessee, Knoxville) and Kurt Johnson (Florida State Collection of Arthropods, Gainesville) for Fine Lines: Vladimir Nabokov’s Scientific Art (Yale University Press, 2016).


Vladimir Nabokov Society Travel Support Grants

Up to five travel scholarships of $500 will be awarded annually to younger scholars presenting at conferences supported by the IVNS. This information will soon be revised and moved to a new page and menu link.


Nabokov Studies Prize

This prize is generously funded by Zoran Kuzmanovich, the editor of Nabokov Studies.  

The Donald Barton Johnson Prize 

For the best essay published in Nabokov Studies honors the founding editor of Nabokov Studies. The prize is voted on by a rotating subset of the Nabokov Studies Editorial Board and members of the Davidson College Faculty.  The winner is chosen with a view to expanding the intellectual challenge and the range of Nabokov studies as well as deepening the human and professional connections among Nabokov scholars.

2013 Award: Thomas Karshan 

2015 Award: Eric Goldman

2017 Award: Deborah A. Martinsen  


Nabokov Online Journal Prizes

NOJ Prize for Best Contribution to Nabokov studies. Biennial, after first award. Value $600. Selected by popular vote.

2012 (for 2000-2011). Brian Boyd, Nabokov's Ada: The Place of Consciousness (2nd rev. ed., 2001).

2013 Stephen H. Blackwell, The Quill and the Scalpel: Nabokov's Art and the Worlds of Science (2009). 


NOJ Award for the Best Student Essay on Nabokov. Annual. Value $300. 


PEN Nabokov Prize

The PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature is a lifetime award, selected annually by a panel chosen by PEN American Center, for a living author whose body of work, either written in or translated into English, is of enduring originality and consummate craftsmanship. The winner receives a $50,000 prize, funded by the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation.

2017 award: Adonis
2018 award: Edna O'Brien
2019 award: Sandra Cisneros

In its initial form the Prize was set up by PEN American Center and Dmitri Nabokov in 2000, was biennial, worth $20,000, and awarded to writers, principally novelists, "whose works evoke to some measure Nabokov's brilliant versatility and commitment to literature as a search for the deepest truth and the highest pleasure—what Nabokov called the 'indescribable tingle of the spine'" (to cite a no longer valid PEN American Center link). Under its initial terms, it was awarded in 2000 to William H. Gass, in 2002 to Mario Vargas Llosa, in 2004 to Mavis Gallant, in 2006 to Philip Roth, and in 2008 to Cynthia Ozick. The award then lapsed until it was revived under the new terms above in 2016.