Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Laura Nicosia

Committee Member

Adam Rzepka

Committee Member

Melinda Knight


This essay ties both the repetition and doubling found in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita with the art of retelling to find a means of a center origin in Jacques Derrida’s “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences.” This essay argues how unreliable narration works to substitute and redefine a center origin of/for the novel, and in doing so, pulls the reader further from any reliable foundation from which to draw conclusions. Humbert Humbert, the protagonist, employs what readers recognize as Derrida’s theory of deconstruction not only to disorient readers of Lolita, but to provide a sort of innocence that passive readers are influenced to believe. It is argued that using Derrida’s theory of deconstruction is almost necessary to decipher the ins and outs of the novel and to understand the inner workings of Humbert’s pedophilic nature and abusive tendencies. Otherwise, all readers will become passive to his art of play and verbal manipulations.

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