A Discussion in to the ways in which Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita Explores Modern
Anxieties about Childhood Sexuality and a Foucauldian Understanding of the
While the themes of sexuality and subjugation have been at the forefront of popular culture for many years, until Lolita no book had so explicitly explored the deeper and darker rudiments of sex and desire, with the exception of Sade’s literary works. Through the novel’s alternative, taboo subject area, fundamentally paedophilia, Nabokov blurs the particularly fine line amid ‘normal’ sexuality, and deviance (Goldman, 2004). Considering that the ‘topic of little girls and sexuality has come to be seen – as being about the problem of the sexual abuse of innocent and vulnerable girls by bad adult men’ (Walkerdine, 1999: 12), Nabokov provokes an alternate perspective in his novel. The blurring of ‘normal’ sexual behaviour in Lolita essentially challenges cultural beliefs surrounding adult sexuality, as well as the ‘myths about the presumed “innocence”, or sexual naiveté’ of children (Goldman, 2004). Lolita explores the deeper implications behind general theories surrounding the nature of paedophilia; exploring the sexual behaviour of children, and posing questions upon the allure of the child as a figure of sexual desire, as well as a modern understanding of the paedophile.
Though Nabokov mocks psychiatry and psychoanalytic theories in Lolita, there are references to psychoanalysis throughout his novel. The novel displays Freud’s theories on childhood sexuality, and allows for an exploration into Kincaid’s theory on the cultural figure of the paedophile. The characters and events in the novel also make it possible to explore a Foucauldian understanding of the monster. Lolita supplies examples of the ‘two or three antecedents’ (Foucault, 2003: 274) of the monster; including the child masturbator, the judicial monster and the sexual deviant. Although the term ‘“monster” is [fundamentally] a...