• Peter Grauholt Hansen
4. term, English, Master (Master Programme)
Delving into the theoretical framework of Literary Darwinism, this thesis sought to answer the question of its relevance at the current time in academia by exploring the intricacies of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955), and attempting to answer the question: why is Lolita so popular? And can it be explained from a Literary Darwinist perspective? By enveloping and adapting terms from evolutionary biology, sociology and cognition it is possible to form an analysis that can present previously unknown avenues within literary understanding. Deliberating the various qualities that are most emphatic in expression, such as, its consilient objective, its wish for a return to a traditional literary analysis, and the general ontology and methodology behind it, while providing a historical background, gave way for an analysis based in the modern perspective of Literary Darwinism. Analyzing aspects of character, narration, plot structure, thematic structure, and style of prose, lent itself very well to the analytical framework of Literary Darwinism, since it was possible to relate various scientific journal articles to the novel’s unique expression. In relation to the character and narrator Humbert Humbert, it was possible to combine evolutionary sociological terms such as the Welfare Tradeoff Ratio in order to categorize the ethical evaluation of him, deeming him untrustworthy and unreliable, while also categorizing him as a free-rider. This is also connected to the usual debate on Humbert’s reliability as a narrator, where the ambiguity of his narration comes into play. Without decisively concluding upon it, it was deemed likely that he is an unreliable narrator due to the weight of arguments on the side of unreliability.
In terms of structures, whether macro or micro, the dominant perspective came to be the ontological inevitability of pattern recognition, which has an enormous impact upon our perception of the novel’s contents. On the micro level, the assonant, alliterative and anaphoric qualities of the text was shown to harness an allure from the innate human appreciation of pattern recognition, while on the macro level, plot structures and thematic structures were shown to tap into some of the same alluring qualities. As we engage with these structures often, as for instance the plot structure of the romance plot or the revenge plot, we can appreciate Nabokov’s simultaneous conformity to such structures, while also appreciating the divergences. So where does that leave the question of the popularity of Lolita?
A task such a this, has certain Sisyphean qualities, making an ultimate conclusion ostensibly out of reach without a quantitative study, that can approach the question from an empirical point of view. Even so, it was possible to approximate a reasonable amount of innate allures from the novel to, at least, argue that they have an impact on the sustained popularity of Lolita on a global scale. Subsequently, the adoption of other theoretical perspectives, as a consilient argument, aided in supporting various arguments made earlier in the thesis. But why is all of this even relevant?
In the current state of literary academia, there is a general problem in that funding from political institutions is decreasing on a global scale, enrollment has fallen, which betrays a public notion of the inapplicability of the work done in such departments. By introducing an empirical element such as Literary Darwinism, flawed though it is, could help improve cross-branch relations, while perhaps satiating the political institutions that have disregarded it. Naturally, Literary Darwinism is not the end-all theory, but it introduces some interesting notions that could be detrimental to disregard completely. By enveloping such a framework in a more comprehensive manner, could help create a more heterogenous view of literature, while introducing fresh perspectives for further inspiration.

Publication date31 May 2018
Number of pages61
ID: 280135237