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Friedman, S.M. (1999). Nabokov's Lolita: A Psychoanalytic Study. Ann. Psychoanal., 26:245-258.

(1999). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 26:245-258

IV Psychoanalysis and the Arts

Nabokov's Lolita: A Psychoanalytic Study

Stanley M. Friedman, M.D., Ph.D.

I hate tampering with the precious lives of great writers and I hate Tom-peeping over the fences of these lives—I hate the rustle of skirts and giggles in the corridors of time—and no biographer will ever catch a glimpse of my private life.

—Nabokov, Lectures on Russian Literature

… under the windows of which … a huge custard-colored balloon was being inflated by Sigismund Lejoyeux, a local aeronaut.

—Nabokov, Speak, Memory

Essays on applied psychoanalysis always have a special fascination and a special set of difficulties. The fascination is due to the marked creative imagination required. The difficulties relate to the fact that they deal with topics that are not verifiable. Being more limited empirically, they become reduced from probabilities to plausabilities. Internal consistency becomes more critical as empirical possibilities are reduced. In addition, such variables as historical context, style, and artistic tradition have to be taken into account. These difficulties lead to a situation in which a critic can offer equally plausible and consistent alternate interpretations. As is developed below, Nabokov's Lolita, although rich in the possibility for such multiple interpretation, also carries within itself such consistent and frequently repeated imagery that it becomes possible to construct a portrait of the dominant instinctual sources, conflicts, compromise formations, and solutions to be described.

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