Nabokov and Bergson: the optical expression of time in "Speak, memory"
Karunungan, Patricia Arreola
Date of Issue2017
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
"Speak, Memory", the title of Vladimir Nabokov’s autobiography, is a synecdoche for the contentions between memory and language. It posits language as the medium of memory, but as a medium it is inherently problematic: is memory shaped—that is, altered, transformed, or even manipulated—by language? Or is language itself an inadequate means of capturing and conveying memory? This line of inquiry leads to a reconsideration of the genre of autobiography and the verity it purports, whether that truth is a historical or personal one. One way in which memory resists the codifications of narrative is through Nabokov’s expressions of time. Through acts of ‘looking’, his prose approaches the condition of temporal experience vis-à-vis the metaphysical philosopher Henri Bergson’s concept of ‘duration’ as a means of mapping ‘true’ time. By analysing its optical qualities, Nabokov’s autobiography is seen to attain Bergson’s duration, drawing attention to the ways unique to language that memory is immortalised.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University