Playing for Keeps: Using Nabokov to Teach Composition

Janet Moser


If I can show my literature students how Nabokov can take them from familiar representations of experience to representations of less familiar experiences, from a knowledge of the given world to an understanding of the world of the imagination, then, it seems to me, I ought to be able find some way of showing my composition students how to do it the other way around. I ought to be able to reverse-engineer what I do in my literature classes and come up with a way to use Nabokov’s distancing techniques in my composition classes as a means of probing the limitations of familiar models of representation, of helping students come to an understanding of the ways in which too great an adherence to convention can betray the sense of what they hope to convey in their writing.


Vladimir Nabokov; composition; literature; teaching; writing; style

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