Back to School Offer

Get 20% of Your First Order amount back in Reward Credits!

Get 20% of Your First Orderback in Rewards

All papers examples
Get a Free E-Book! ($50 Value)
HIRE A WRITER!
Paper Types
Disciplines
Get a Free E-Book! ($50 Value)

Nabokov’s “Signs and Symbols”, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 947

Essay

Freud and Nietzsche bear an immediate affinity, in so far as the respective thinkers both oppose the notion of a unified human subject. The narratives of Enlightenment reason, such as the Cartesian ego which is derived from his famous conclusion “I think, therefore I am” (Belfiore, 1) which as a consequence posit a human subject that is essentially harmonious, without any inner tensions, frames the fundamental antagonism of human existence in terms of a subject-object relationship. This drives much of modern science, which attempts to understand how the subject can grasp the object, or, in other words, how can we know the world around us. Both Nietzsche and Freud attack this hypothesis by challenging a fundamental presupposition to this account: how can we presuppose that the subject is something harmonious? In other words, Nietzsche and Freud introduce into their model of human subjectivity precisely this idea of an inner tension. The human subject is not only in confrontation with the world around him, but also experiences an inner type of antagonism, which is expressed in Nietzsche’s Apollo-Dionysus distinction and Freud’s instinctual drives respectively.

In the case of Nietzsche, therefore, the Apollonian aspect represents precisely the rational calculating “ego”, which we find in the Enlightenment narrative. This is the human subject who uses the laws of reasons to approach the world around him or her. At the same time, however, Nietzsche also introduces a subversive element to the Apollonian, that of the Dionysian, which essentially names the irrational element of human subjectivity and behavior. The human subject is in tension with himself precisely because of the radical difference between the Apollo and Dionysus concepts.

There is a clear parallel here with Freud, although Freud modifies the terms of this inner tension. In the case of Freud, what is above all of importance are the drives for self-preservation and the sexual drive respectively, or what Freud would later term, the life drive and the death drive. Here, is not the case of reason, unless we consider self-preservation to be reasonable and the will to destruction irrational, but rather a will to life and a will to destruction. Thus, Freud eliminates the preconceived notion, much like Nietzsche, that human beings are rational actors: the self-destructive behaviors of human beings, in other words, need to be accounted for in the model of human subjectivity. It is this imperative which brings Nietzsche and Freud into agreement.

In Nabokov’s short story “Signs and Symbols”, the reader encounters the Freudian and Nietzschean ideas of a fractured and tormented human subjectivity, although one that can also be said to somewhat deviate from the Freudian and Nietzschean accounts. At the very start of the story, Nabokov addresses human subjectivity not from the perspective of rationality, but of irrationality, that is, through the phenomenon of mental illness: “For the fourth time in as many years they were confronted with the problem of what birthday present to bring a young man who was incurably deranged in his mind.” Instead of a rational actor, Nabokov’s story focuses on the “irrational” of mental illness. The derangement at stake here clearly recalls the Freudian and Nietzschean attempts to explain a human subject that is constituted by an inner antagonism.

However, at the same time, Nabokov’s account of the human subject appears to differ from Freud and Nietzsche’s versions. As Nabokov writes in the following line, thus providing a cause for the subject’s mental illness, “he had no desires.” (11) Now, this can be said to deviate from Freud and Nietzsche above all for the following reason: in both Freud and Nietzsche’s account, there appears to be a key concept of desire which shapes the tension of the human subject. For example, in Freud, we see the notions of the life instinctual drive and the death instinctual drive. In essence, one could argue that both of these drives are entirely synonymous with desire. Hence, the drive to self-preservation is the desire, simply put, to remain alive, whereas the death drive is clearly a desire of self-annihilation. The tension in the human subject is therefore the result of what appears to be two antagonistic desires. In Nietzsche, the irrational desire of Dionysous, for example, to hedonistic excess without any rational purpose, and the rational desire to understand and apply reason and logic of Apollo, may both be considered to be desires. Once again, the tension of the human subject is the result of the antagonism between different desires.

Nabokov paints a different picture of subjectivity. The derangement of the human being, that is to say, that something is not “right” with the human being, in this case is the result of the absence of any desires altogether. Both Nietzsche and Freud posit conflicting drives, desires or archetypes in the human being which exist simultaneously. For Nabokov, instead, the focus is on a human being who is not constituted by these opposing forces, but is rather a type of void, an emptiness. In other words, we can say that for Nabokov the true “irrational” subject is not one who is constituted by opposing drives, because we are all constituted by these opposing forces: someone is truly different, someone is “deranged” from Nabokov’s perspective, when this basic human element of desire is entirely missing. Accordingly, Nabokov much like Freud and Nietzsche focuses on an account of human subjectivity in this story which deviates from the traditional Enlightenment narratives, but then goes a step further by suggesting a new form or “irrationality” or what he terms derangement which is not entirely consistent with the Freudian and Nietzschean accounts.

Works Cited

Belfiore, Francesco. The Structure of the Mind: Outlines of a Philosophical System. New York: University Press of America, 2004.

Nabokov, Vladimir. “Signs and Symbols.”

Time is precious

Time is precious

don’t waste it!

Get instant essay
writing help!
Get instant essay writing help!
Plagiarism-free guarantee

Plagiarism-free
guarantee

Privacy guarantee

Privacy
guarantee

Secure checkout

Secure
checkout

Money back guarantee

Money back
guarantee

Related Essay Samples & Examples

Email and Voicemail Monitoring, Essay Example

When it comes to email and voicemail monitoring, it is important to consider the implications of these actions on behalf of both the employee as [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 340

Essay

Description of Place: A Forest, Essay Example

The logic behind the significance of specific locations to individuals inevitably varies. Some places may hold pertinence since they are the sites of important personal [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 315

Essay

Quality Management System, Essay Example

Customer needs and expectations are the products any customer attaches to a company and knows that he or she will get it when need arises. [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 337

Essay

What Does It Take To Be a Good Parent Assignment, Essay Example

The issue of what does it take to be a good parent is contentious, insofar as the thematic remains susceptible to subjective interpretations. One may [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 330

Essay

Human Rights Violations and the Legal System, Essay Example

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (hereinafter: UDHR), advanced by the United Nations General Assembly in 1947, was a watershed moment, insofar as with this [...]

Pages: 4

Words: 1122

Essay

The Critical Consulting Firm, Essay Example

Week 5 Issues The CanGo operation provides interesting insights into, unfortunately, how to conduct employee relations poorly. This is obviously not the company’s intent; on [...]

Pages: 5

Words: 1287

Essay

Email and Voicemail Monitoring, Essay Example

When it comes to email and voicemail monitoring, it is important to consider the implications of these actions on behalf of both the employee as [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 340

Essay

Description of Place: A Forest, Essay Example

The logic behind the significance of specific locations to individuals inevitably varies. Some places may hold pertinence since they are the sites of important personal [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 315

Essay

Quality Management System, Essay Example

Customer needs and expectations are the products any customer attaches to a company and knows that he or she will get it when need arises. [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 337

Essay

What Does It Take To Be a Good Parent Assignment, Essay Example

The issue of what does it take to be a good parent is contentious, insofar as the thematic remains susceptible to subjective interpretations. One may [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 330

Essay

Human Rights Violations and the Legal System, Essay Example

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (hereinafter: UDHR), advanced by the United Nations General Assembly in 1947, was a watershed moment, insofar as with this [...]

Pages: 4

Words: 1122

Essay

The Critical Consulting Firm, Essay Example

Week 5 Issues The CanGo operation provides interesting insights into, unfortunately, how to conduct employee relations poorly. This is obviously not the company’s intent; on [...]

Pages: 5

Words: 1287

Essay

Get a Free E-Book ($50 in value)

Get a Free E-Book

How To Write The Best Essay Ever!

How To Write The Best Essay Ever!