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LIT 13 W — Vladimir Nabokov: An Introduction to His Life and Literature

Quarter: Summer
Course Format: Online course (System Requirements)
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Jun 26—Aug 18
Drop Deadline: Jul 4
Unit: 1
Tuition: $410
Instructor(s): Natalya Sukhonos
Limit: 40
Jun 26—Aug 18
8 weeks
Drop By
Jul 4
1 Unit
Natalya Sukhonos

Fascinated with metamorphosis in butterflies and languages, Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977) loved to cross national, linguistic, and aesthetic boundaries with a brio that would enrage the censors and delight readers across the globe. Born into St. Petersburg aristocracy, Nabokov emigrated to Berlin, Paris, and then the United States. Writing in his native Russian at the beginning of his career, Nabokov eventually became an acclaimed American novelist. Initially rejected for counts of obscenity and pornography, Lolita (1955) made Nabokov famous overnight because of its seductive narrator, constant wordplay, and fascination with 1950s America. The author himself called the novel his love affair with the English language.

But who was Nabokov, really? A conservative Russian writer longing for a pre-Revolutionary past? A scholar with “strong opinions” on world literature, aesthetics, and chess? A lepidopterist who collected butterfly specimens far and wide? A radical American author who was unafraid to inhabit dark voices to explore the recesses of memory and sexuality?

In this online course, we will focus on Nabokov’s early Kafkaesque Russian novel, Invitation to a Beheading; his masterpiece, Lolita; selections from his 1951 autobiography, Speak, Memory; and the short story Signs and Symbols. We will dive into Nabokov’s maze of ethics and aesthetics, the material and the otherworldly, memory and artifice, Russian and English, life and art.


  • Course sizes are limited.
    You won't have 5,000 classmates. This course's enrollment is capped at 40 participants.

  • Frequent interaction with the instructor.
    You aren't expected to work through the material alone. Instructors will answer questions and interact with students on the discussion board and through weekly video meetings.

  • Study with a vibrant peer group.
    Stanford Continuing Studies courses attract thoughtful and engaged students who take courses for the love of learning. Students in each course will exchange ideas with one another through easy-to-use message boards as well as optional weekly real-time video conferences.

  • Direct feedback from the instructor.
    Instructors will review and offer feedback on assignment submissions. Students are not required to turn in assignments, but for those who do, their work is graded by the instructor.

  • Courses offer the flexibility to participate on your own schedule.
    Course work is completed on a weekly basis when you have the time. You can log in and participate in the class whenever it's convenient for you. If you can’t attend the weekly video meetings, the sessions are always recorded for you and your instructor is just an email away.

  • This course is offered through Stanford Continuing Studies.
    To learn more about the program, visit our About Us page. For more information on the online format, please visit the FAQ page.

Natalya Sukhonos, Independent Scholar

Natalya Sukhonos’s area of research is 20th-century Russian and Latin American literature. She has taught literature, humanities, and writing at Harvard, Stanford, Cogswell College, and UC Davis. She received a PhD in comparative literature from Harvard.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita, Second (ISBN 978-0679723165)
(Required) Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a Beheading, Vintage; Reissue edition (September 19, 1989) (ISBN 978-0679725312)
(Required) Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory -- An Autobiography Revisited, Vintage; Reissue edition (August 28, 1989) (ISBN 978-0679723394)
(Recommended) Vladimir Nabokov, Collected Stories (Penguin Modern Classics), Penguin Books, Limited (UK) (February 22, 2001) (ISBN 978-0141183459)