Shame and Lolita: A Psychodynamic Model of Reading by Beverly Haviland, Ph.D. with clinical discussant Sherri Nelson, Ph.D.

Lolita is a difficult text because Nabokov uses his literary mastery to create a conflict in the reader between her admiration for his stylistic brilliance and her revulsion at the child sexual abuse he represents in the novel. Theorizing the author-text-reader relation as psychodynamic and intersubjective allows us to analyze this response in ways that illuminate Nabokov’s complex deployments of shame. As in the transference/countertransference of the analytic process, the relation between the author, the text, and the reader brings into play both conscious and unconscious representations and defenses. Becoming conscious of the literary structures that affect the reader unconsciously allows her to engage critically with the text and to offer interpretations that resist the charm manifested in Nabokov’s grandiose style, a charm that seeks to obscure the harm his hero inflicts on the girl known to the world as Lolita.

Learning Objectives:
1.Discern how narrative representations and devices affect the reader’s unconscious responses to a fiction in ways analogous to transference/countertransference experiences in clinical contexts.
2. Distinguish among shame variants as represented in the narrative’s characters and as experienced by the reader.
3. Use the psychodynamic model of the reading process in the clinical setting, identifying narrative devices that are used in the therapeutic dialogue and serve to animate the transference/countertransference dynamic.

Beverly Haviland is a Visiting Associate Professor and Senior Lecturer in American Studies at Brown University. She works in 19th- and 20th-century American literature and film, cultural history, feminist theory and psychoanalytic theory. The author of Henry James’s Last Romance: Making Sense of the Past and the American Scene and numerous essays on literature and culture, she is also the editor of James’s unfinished novel The Sense of the Past to be published in the 34-volume edition of the Complete Fiction of Henry James. Her current book project, Shameless and Blameless: Child Sexual Abuse, Psychoanalysis, Law, and Literature (under contract with Routledge) focuses on childhood sexual abuse and how shame affects victims, perpetrators, witnesses and readers in literary and legal contexts.




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Date/Time
Date(s) - March 13, 2019
7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

Location
Central Congregational Church
296 Angell Street (Diman Street entrance)
Providence, Rhode Island

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