‘The word is incest’
Narrative, affect and judgement in and across the Lolitas
in Incest in contemporary literature
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Through intertext, adaptation, nominative re-births and epiphanies, Lolita (1955) enacts a kind of incestuous narcissism, a self-consuming act of libidinality and linguistic desire that offers a fantasy of self-exculpation and discovery, a narrative of abuse and trauma, and a meta-fiction that revels in the performative perversions its characters suffer from. Each part of the novel is born of an incestuous relationship with an earlier (part of the) text, every subsequent re-statement of Lolita carries this textual-familial weight.

This essay frames an analysis of the novel and its two filmic daughters in the light of these three strands: a realist fantasy of a man’s maniac relationship with a girl who becomes his daughter and sexual partner; his ‘confession’, her distorted trauma tale; the various formal, stylistic, intertextual “incests” that stand in dizzying juxtaposition to the ‘ethical impact’ assigned to it by the pre-facing John Ray Jr.

Editor: Miles Leeson


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