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My Potential Patients: Origins, Detection, and Transference in - page 43 / 69





43 / 69

Cohen 40

Boyd's authoritarian dismissal of the validity of Kinbote's experience, by

discrediting the truth claim of his narrative and seeing through it, has less to do with

preserving the moral order of the novel against an assault of relativist readings than it

does with protecting his own argument. Referring to Wilson's equally strident

dismissal of the governess, Felman notes that "to point to the madness of the other is

to deny and to negate the very madness that might be lurking in the self. The Other's

madness thus becomes a decisive proof and guarantee of one's own sanity" (195). It

is far from necessary to go to the lengths Boyd does to condemn Kinbote, who does a

more than sufficient job on his own. Kinbote is a not a seductive Humbert, as Boyd

suggests, who "can persuade some into


Shade should have put the colorful

Zembla story in verse" (45); unlike with Humbert, the danger is not that we will take

Kinbote too seriously, but that we will not take him seriously enough.

The third question of Wilson's Freudian reading, Felman says, is "the

rhetorical question


symbolic ambiguity" (105).


Wilson, Boyd answers with

"the literal meaning," the "proper name" (Felman 105) of metaphors. "Through

Kinbote's disordered note," Boyd claims, referring to his note to lines 1-4, "Nabokov

. . . invites us to read through Kinbote rather than with him, to enjoy the

outrageousness of his character and his scholarship" (39). "We are invited to see," he

reasserts, "behind Kinbote's enthusiasm for his own viewpoint, how insufferable his

obsessive behavior is" (45). Boyd goes on to devote an entire chapter to uncovering

the literal meaning of Kinbote's world, perceiving the ostensibly real Botkin through



Botkin," Boyd notes, is a Russian


from a czarist family who moves

to New Wye after his homosexual pedophilia forces him to abdicate his academic

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