Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Co-chair

Casey Charles, Rob Browning

Commitee Members

Jannine Montauban


literary studies, Nabokov, political studies, reading, Rorty, Stow


University of Montana


Simon Stow warns that the influence of political readings of literary texts could be harmful to political discourse. In particular, he cautions against the growing popularity of political “readings” over political “arguments.” Compared with traditional arguments, readings are, Stow argues, poorly suited for liberal political discourse. To demonstrate this point, Stow challenges the political character of Richard Rorty’s reading of Pale Fire. In this essay, I dispute Stow's criticism of Rorty. My basic argument is that literary criticism (or "readings") can be politically significant and that Rorty's acknowledgement of this fact ties him to rather than separates him from, both the political and literary arenas. To make my point, I reconsider the reading of Pale Fire Rorty offers relative to the kind of reading of Don Quixote offered by Nabokov. By arguing that even the most "literary" of writers reads for political purposes, I hope to situate Rorty within a cultural space where the literary and political converge.



© Copyright 2008 John Copeland