Confessional Realism versus Gothic Fiction in Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita and Silvia Path's "Daddy"

Ellen Jamieson


The 1950’s and 60’s were an era in which confessional poems, like Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy,” captured the popular imagination, but it is often forgotten that one of the most famous prose works of the time was also presented as an act of confession, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, containing Humbert Humbert’s manuscript Lolita, or Confession of a Widowed White Male. Inspired by this parallel, Ellen Jamieson makes an insightful argument that both works can be read as revised Gothic tales, in which a vulnerable young girls is victimized by an oppressive patriarch. The difference, of course, is that in the case of Lolita, it is the villain Humbert who tells the story, while in “Daddy” the victim speaks for herself. However, as Jamieson notes, in both instances the situation is complicated by the fact that each account is seriously unreliable, compromised as it is by the turbulence of the speaker’s emotional condition. –Dr. David Evans

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