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Vladimir Nabokov and the Art of Play$
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Thomas Karshan

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199603985

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199603985.001.0001

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The Origins of Nabokov's Idea of Artistic Play

The Origins of Nabokov's Idea of Artistic Play

(p.23) 1 The Origins of Nabokov's Idea of Artistic Play
Vladimir Nabokov and the Art of Play

Thomas Karshan (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter establishes the direct and indirect sources for Nabokov's idea of artistic play. It begins by setting out the history of the idea that art and the world are play in Kant, Schiller, and Nietzsche. It then traces the dissemination of these ideas in the nineteenth century, through de Stäel, Cousin, Coleridge, Poe, Baudelaire, Arnold, Swinburne, Pater, and Wilde, and in Russian through Tolstoy and, especially, Dostoevsky. It then shows how Nabokov may have learned of these ideas directly. While in Yalta in 1917–19 he studied under Maximilian Voloshin, who was fascinated with the Nietzschean idea of play, and read Andrey Bely, whose Petersburg is a study in Kantian and Nietzschean concepts of play. Later, in Berlin from 1922 on, Nabokov came into contact with a group of émigré thinkers who directly or indirectly expressed post-Kantian ideas of aesthetic play. The most important was his early mentor Iulii Aikhenvald, but other significant figures were Grigory Landau, Fyodor Stepun, and Sergei Hessen.

Keywords:   Nabokov, play, aesthetics, Kant, Schiller, Nietzsche, aestheticism, Symbolism, Voloshin, Bely, Aikhenvald, Russian émigrés, Berlin

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