Pale Fire Critical Essay

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To extrapolate the stratum-metaphor, Nabokov’s fiction resembles a land amidst a silent earthquake, where the critic must take into account with the unfortunate contingency of carefully shaped tunnels being constantly rearranged by the destabilized (that is, reread) crushes or landslides brought about by previous hypotheses.

For above all, postmodern criticism offers the revelation of the revitalized consciousness focusing on its own reading process.

My hypothesis is that this novel thematizes the act of reading, as well as its constructive nature.

Apart from the analysis of narratology, my investigation will revolve around two fictional characters in the plot: Charles Kinbote, professor of literature and the assumed narrator of the story, and Gradus, the mysterious assassin, whom I consider the most problematic character.

This self-reflexivity does not function as an exterior device in my approach; rather, the process of reading is itself aware of its own constructive nature.

From this perspective, the paradigmatic shift mentioned above will manifest itself in the realization that criticism must confront itself as being formed in the context of discourses, where these contexts are constructed precisely by the discourses themselves.

In my interpretation, the metaleptic shift occurs when Gradus eventually transgresses Kinbote’s narrative to become the assassin of John Shade.

This phenomenon of transcending diegetic levels will be expressed by the metaphor of the mirror, and will serve as an analogy to discuss the possible readings of the novel itself, more specifically regarding postmodernist reading strategies and the concept of the “dominant narrative” offered by Brian Mc Hale.

In my reading, Gradus’s role will represent the various instances of metalepsis applied in the narrative of Pale Fire.

Metalepsis is the rhetorical tool by which, according to Gérard Genette, the narrative can transcend multiple layers of diegetic reality.


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