Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

Radical/domestic : representations of the professor in Willa Cather's The Professor's House and Vladimir Nabokov's Pnin Public Deposited

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  • This thesis is an exploration of literary representation of professors, specificially in Willa Cather's The Professor's House and Vladimir Nabokov's Pnin. I explicate the political unconscious of these texts by teasing out the tensions and ironies stemming from the conflict between the radical political consequences of the titular characters' scholarship (which aims to break down binaries and promote collective or communal interests) and their inability to fully articulate or enact those consequences. I argue that in The Professor's House, Godfrey St. Peter's desire to evacuate the content of his historical research of violence by writing his memories and domestic experiences into the text compromises his connection to the ground-level history he attempts to write. Only the end of the novel and its violent domestic event can prompt him to seek interaction with the outside "world of Augustas." In Pnin, Timofey Pnin compromises his own radical work—an attempt to use popular beliefs and customs as a way to mirror the narratives and events of larger historical trends—through his failure to clearly articulate his position as a stakeholder in those larger historical events. The "untranslatable" nature of the exile's language leaves him silenced and without a place in the academy.
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