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ENGL 2500: Vladimir Nabokov and Pale Fire

Research guide for students in Prof. Chip Tucker's Spring 2024 ENGL 2500: At the Square Root of Literature Class

Researching Vladimir Nabokov and Pale Fire

The resources on this guide will help you as you undertake research related to Vladimir Nabokov and his novel Pale Fire. This page includes information for finding Nabokov-related critical scholarship and biographical information as well as resources for researching the reception of Pale Fire and interviews with Nabokov. The other tabs on this guide provide guidance on citing works you use in your research papers and tools for making off-Grounds access to our resources easier. 

Finding Nabokov-related critical scholarship - library databases

The MLA International Bibliography (MLAIB) indexes the broadest range of resources about literature in all languages. Not everything in the MLA Bibliography is full-text, meaning that you may only see a description of an article, rather than the text of the article. To get full text of an article, click on “Find article @ UVa Libraries”, or look up the journal title in Virgo, the library catalog. If the citation is for a book or an essay/chapter in a book, look for the book title in Virgo.

        ** Exception 1: For articles in The Nabokov Online Journal go to the journal's website to look for full text (you may need to create a free account and wait for password for access, or you can try Interlibrary Loan). **

        **Exception 2: Part of the Virgo record for Nabokov Studies says we stop online access in 2008, but you should be able to access more recent years through Project Muse. **

ProQuest One Literature contains 3 million literature citations from thousands of journals, monographs, and dissertations. It also includes more than 500,000 primary works – including rare and obscure texts, multiple versions, and non-traditional sources like comics, theatre performances, and author readings.

JSTOR includes older issues of scholarly journals, from their beginnings to 3-5 years ago, so this may be another good database to look for articles related to your novel or work. Articles in JSTOR should be full-text, if we subscribe to the journal. 

Google Scholar allows you to find articles from many online scholarly journals plus some books and Web sites. Use Advanced Search if you get too many results; use Preferences to turn on links to Find@UVa. 

Project MUSE includes searchable full text of nearly 600 scholarly journals in the humanities, social sciences, and more, mostly from North American university presses. 

Finding print and ebooks - critical scholarship

Virgo is UVA Library's catalog. Search Virgo for scholarship about Nabokov and his works. Use subject headings to help you find resources that meet your research needs. You can use a general subject to get started, like: Nabokov, Vladimir Vladimirovich -- 1899-1977 -- Criticism and interpretation or Nabokov, Vladimir Vladimirovich -- 1899-1977 -- Pale fire

You can also run an advanced search and pair a search for Nabokov with a search for keywords that relate to themes/topics of interest. For example, you might search for a keyword of Nabokov AND butterflies or Nabokov AND lemniscate curve. If you don't find any books under the Catalog option, look under Articles for possible articles of interest. 

If you find a book that includes a subject heading that relates to your topic of interest, click on the subject heading in the item record to find other items marked with that subject. 

Below are a few examples of print books and ebooks that critically examine Nabokov and his works. 

Finding biographical information about Nabokov

In addition to critical content and primary sourcesProQuest One Literature contains Author Pages where you can find a biographical essays on key authors like Nabokov. 

Literature Resource Center (LRC) includes the full text of important literary reference works. Among them are articles from the Dictionary of Literary Biography, which is a terrific source for finding detailed biographies and profiles of authors, illustrators, publishers, and other literary figures. Run a search for a person's name and then choose the Biographies tab if available (though other articles - critical or otherwise -- could be useful, too!) 

There are also many book-length works on Nabokov and his family and associates. Find them using a Virgo catalog search. A few examples: 

Researching reception history

There are many different ways to approach finding both contemporary and newer reviews of Nabokov's novels and works. This section will highlight a few. 


2. Secondary Source Databases

You might find articles or books listed in MLA International Bibliography that discuss the reception or review of a particular title. 

3. Primary Source Databases

Finally, you can access some of our primary source periodical and newspaper databases to look for contemporary reviews of Nabokov's novels and other works. For a list of other newspaper and periodical collections of  possible interest, see the Primary Sources - Find Historical Newspapers, Periodicals, Diaries, & More tab of the English Language & Literature Guide. 

PAO: Periodicals Archive Online allows you to search the full text of nearly 400 international humanities and social sciences journals published from 1770 to the 1990s. 

JSTOR also includes historical publications, so run a search in this database and limit your results to the time period just after the work was published to find contemporary reviews. 

ProQuest Historical Newspapers includes key newspapers such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Defender, Chicago Tribune, Norfolk Journal and Guide, Pittsburgh Courier, NY Amsterdam News, Baltimore Afro-American, Washington Post, and The Guardian & The Observer.

America's Historical Newspapers (1690-1991) is a searchable full text collection of US newspapers. 

Researching Nabokov's Letters & Interviews

If you are interested in researching what Nabokov had to say himself about Pale Fire and other literature, you may want to look at some of his letters or interviews. While some items may still be tucked away in archives, others have been published in book form or online and can be easily accessed. Here are a few examples: