Reading Jane Austen with Vladimir Nabokov

How did Nabokov read Jane Austin? Janine Barchas has a fascinating post at the JHU Press Blog about how Vladimir Nabokov both read and taught Jane Austin to his students. Barchas closely read Nabokov’s lectures and examined his “battered and marked-up teaching copy” of Austin’s Mansfield Park. Nabokov’s notations demonstrated that Nabokov not only closely read Austin’s book, but demonstrate that sought to completely understand the world that Austin had created. We all should take Barchas’s advice and read more like Nabokov.

Jane Barchas’s is the author of Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity

Johns Hopkins University Press Blog

Guest post by Janine Barchas

Great writers are great readers. And nothing dials up the magnification on a book like the green-eyed gaze of a fellow author.

In 2014, many Jane Austen fans have been rereading what is arguably her darkest and most difficult novel in celebration of Mansfield Park’s bicentenary. One unique copy of that novel, formerly owned by Russian-born American novelist Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977), enables the rereading of one great novelist over the shoulder of another.

nabokov 1

During the 1940s and 1950s, Nabokov taught at Wellesley and Cornell. He lectured there on fiction, placing Austen on his syllabus alongside Flaubert, Dickens, Proust, Kafka, and Joyce. The Austen novel he chose to teach was, ambitiously, Mansfield Park. Nabokov’s battered and marked-up teaching copy (an Everyman’s Library reprint from 1948) currently resides in the New York Public Library as part of the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection…

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