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Nabokov, Trees, and the Secret of Infinite Knowledge

November 7, 2019 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

Orange, mimosa, willow, poplar, elm, apple, pine: these seven species of tree occur in the first hundred or so pages of Lolita (most of them at least a few times). Pnin‘s 191 pages contain over thirty species of tree — a new species every six pages, on average. For Nabokov, trees mark the boundary between the human and the non-human, the known and the unknown, the rational and the mysterious, the given and the created. This lecture presents a handful of examples from an extensive project examining the many different types of significance trees carry in Nabokov’s poems, stories, novels, memoir, lectures, and letters. If butterflies are the obvious trademark of Nabokov the naturalist, trees are his secret love and his most ready pathway leading beyond the self.

Stephen H. Blackwell is a professor of Russian at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Author of a number of groundbreaking studies of Vladimir Nabokov, Prof. Blackwell has recently focused on that writer’s legacy as a professional biologist whose scientific epistemology was informed by his artistic sensibilities. Among Professor Blackwell’s publications are Zina’s Paradox: The Figured Reader in Nabokov’s Gift (2000), The Quill and the Scalpel: Nabokov’s Art and Worlds of Science (2009), and Fine Lines: Vladimir Nabokov’s Scientific Art( 2016, with Kurt Johnson)

This event is organized by the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures. 


November 7, 2019
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm


314 Dey Hall