Publication Date

Summer 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


English and Comparative Literature


Robert Cullen


Emigration, Exile, Pale Fire, Pnin, Russia, Vladimir Nabokov

Subject Areas

Literature, American; Slavic Studies; History, Russian and Soviet


This thesis investigates how Vladimir Nabokov's experience as an exiled writer in America serves as a model for the protagonists of Pnin(1957) and Pale Fire(1962), two of Nabokov's English-language novels in which exile is a central theme. Although the protagonists, Pnin and Kinbote, are both true exiles, they illustrate markedly different responses to their dislocations; read in tandem, the novels constitute Nabokov's analysis of exile, his lament over its painfulness, and his transcendence of exile through art. Chapter One looks at Nabokov through the lens of exile while establishing fundamental theoretical concepts and terminology. Chapters Two and Three examine the linguistic and psychological dimensions of exile as represented in Pnin and Pale Fire. Chapter Two looks at how Nabokov portrays language and exile, analyzing issues of translation, transliteration, language barriers, "Pninisms," and the invented quasi-language of Pale Fire, Zemblan. Chapter Three explores some of the psychological implications of exile in Vladimir Nabokov's life and in the two novels, focusing in particular on the roles of memory and imagination. Finally, Chapter Four discusses the unique relationship between Nabokov and his Russian, American, and global audiences.