The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name: How Language Is Used To Conceal Perversion And Desire In Lolita And The Awakening

The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name: How Language Is Used To Conceal Perversion And Desire In Lolita And The Awakening


Subject and more

  • LCC Subject Category: English Language, Literature, Linguistics
  • Publisher's keywords: The Awakening, Lolita, Paedophilia, Perversion, Romance, Sexual Awakening
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  • Full-text formats available: PDF
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    Shafayat Nazam Rasul


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The language used by authors and the characters they create is, of course, of the utmost importance when it comes to our understanding of texts and, throughout history, this language has been used as a shield behind which characters (and their authors) can hide. This paper focuses on the language of sexuality and shows how characters use language to conceal the true nature of their sexuality in two different ways through two different novels: Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. I argue that, in Lolita, Humbert Humbert uses language not only to hide his own perversions but that, in fact, he is successful in doing so, normalizing it in the process, generating sympathy for himself, and painting all those who oppose him as villainous. In The Awakening, we take a look at the representation of female sexuality, where Chopin hides the controversial matter of Edna Pontellier’s sexual awakening and subsequent sexual autonomy behind an intense narrative style. In both cases, language is used in an attempt to protect oneself, either from judgement or persecution, when discussing the conventionally taboo subject matter of sexuality. And, in both cases, this attempt has been a futile one.

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