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My Potential Patients: Origins, Detection, and Transference in - page 25 / 69





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Cohen 22

the source of suspense is his metrically synchronized movement toward the victim,

not a detective's halting yet inevitable movement toward him. At the same time,

though, the gravitational pull of Shade's death is resisted by the discursiveness of

Kinbote's commentary. Namely, the entirety of Kinbote's narrative is presented as

the product of a literary investigation that knowingly and willfully privileges the


and his structuring preferences: "Although those notes, in conformity

with custom, come after the poemw-Kinbote has to maintain at least a charade of

critical respectability-"the reader is advised to consult them first," to re-read them

while reading the poem, and then to re-read them again "so as to complete the

picture" (28). Better yet, it occurs to him, the reader can "eliminate the bother of

back-and-forth leafings by either cutting out and clipping together the pages with the

text of the thing, or, even more simply, purchasing two copies of the same


(28). Kinbote uses advice like this, insular cross-references, and a self-referential

index to trap the reader within a world where he is both detective (of a poem intended

to be about him) and victim (of a bullet intended for him).

Ironically, the creative license Freud and Nabokov take with the conventions

of detective fiction underscores that which is perhaps most fundamental to the genre,



and Pale Fire: the act of decryption. In The Wolf-Man, a dream is

decoded to uncover a repressed memory; in Pale Fire, a poem is interpreted to reveal

a fantastic life story. Using Freud's terminology, we could call the encrypted object

the manifest content and the decrypted object the latent content. We can avoid

privileging Freudian theory, however, if we follow Peter Broolcs in making use of the

Russian Formalist concepts of


"the order of events presented in the narrative

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