Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type



German Studies

First Advisor

Mark Leiderman


The purpose of this thesis is to analyze the relationship between Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and Georges Bataille’s Eroticism, Death, and Sensuality, two significant texts published in the 1950’s. In a comparative analysis, I argue that the texts share a common interest in taboo and erotic transgression, but that the authors present disparate interpretations of these actions. Bataille concludes that erotic transgression liberates the individual from social and/or ideological hegemony. Nabokov critiques this idea through his deconstruction of Lolita’s narrator, Humbert Humbert, and his erotic ransgression. Nabokov portrays erotic transgression as a form of destructive self-indulgence hat renders individuals liable to violate others. Nabokov highlights the violent potential of transgression when the subject in pursuit of freedom is incapable of recognizing the value of other lives apart from his own. Despite their disparate conceptions of eroticism and individual freedom, Nabokov and Bataille envision reality to be heterogeneous and share a common opposition to global ideas. In the context of the 20th century, this stance represents an intellectual reaction to the pathos of global ideas that served as a basis for the rise of totalitarian regimes and their humanitarian atrocities during the 1930s-40s.