Three Saturdays: January 15, 22, 29, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET
“I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another. Let visitors trip.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory
Hailed as a masterpiece of 20th century nonfiction, Nabokov's Speak, Memory is as much thought- experiment as memoir, stretching time across language, image, and symbol. Novel in 1940, Nabokov’s literary magic still dazzles readers to this day.
Composed, published, and revised as separate pieces over the course of three decades, the memoir depicts Nabokov’s charmed childhood in pre-Revolutionary Russia, and concludes with his entrance into the ranks of the intelligentsia at Cambridge University and Paris before he emigrated to America.
Between ransacking dreams for “keys and clues,” channeling the dead, and chasing butterflies over two centuries and three continents of creeks and forests, Nabokov sought to stir the memories of his readers as much as himself. Nabokov’s vignettes expand upon Woolf’s “moments of being,” depicting characters and scenes with a sentience that rises above the written page, to fill the air around us.
Speak, Memory is a text to experience, to live through and absorb in our personal histories as readers. This is the argument of Sven Birkerts in his enlightening guide to Nabokov’s autobiography, which we will be referring to for further interpretations and insights during this class.
During our meetings, we'll relish the style and synesthesia of Speak, Memory, lingering over small morsels of prose, travelling from “sun fleck to sun fleck,” as we read for effects and “the awakening of consciousness” in the author, as well as ourselves.
Readers and writers both are invited to attend and encouraged to find inspiration in Nabokov’s textured treatment of the past.
Note: Each session will include one writing exercise to take home at the end, for those who wish to employ Nabokov’s techniques in their own memoir-making.
Please note new dates: Three Saturdays: January 15, 22, 29, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET
Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited, by Vladimir Nabokov (9780679723394)
Vladimir Nabokov's Speak, Memory: Bookmarked, by Sven Birkerts (9781632461070)
Nicole Miller's prize-winning essays have appeared recently in New Letters and Arts & Letters magazines. Her fiction has been published twice in The Mays, edited by Jill Paton Walsh and Sebastian Faulks. She received an M.Phil. in Victorian Literature from Lincoln College, Oxford; a PhD in English at University College, London; and an MFA at Emerson College, Boston, where she held the Graduate Fellowship in Creative Writing. At The Oxford English Dictionary, she has served as a scholarly reader for British Dialects since 2002. She edits faculty manuscripts in Harvard’s English Department and teaches nineteenth and twentieth century British literature at Politics and Prose in Washington D.C.
REFUND POLICY: Please note that we can issue class refunds up until seven (7) days before the first class session.