Nabokov Online Journal: Where Scholarship Meets Innovation

by Yuri Leving, Dalhousie University & Nabokov Online Journal Founding Editor

NOJThe landscape of the book and journal publishing industry is rapidly changing. Many scholars are eager to adapt to technology-based publishing that provides authors with a fast and affordable way to disseminate the results of their research. Federal granting agencies also favor Open Access models, meaning that knowledge should become freely accessible for broadening readership worldwide. Indeed, compared to traditional, offset printing methods, digital technology is inexpensive and ecologically sustainable. The benefits of a peer-reviewed, full-text, and public-access electronic journal are self-evident and are appropriate for humanities scholarship. Cutting-edge online technology has allowed Nabokov Online Journal to reach a wide international audience and to establish itself as an innovative scholarly platform with several hundred of individual and institutional subscribers. 

Nabokov Online Journal, a multidisciplinary academic journal devoted to Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977), was founded in 2007. Now, in its eighth year of publication, it is the only active refereed specialized scholarly periodical in the field of Nabokov studies (Nabokov Studies, a print journal founded in the mid-1990s, has been in print erratically, while the future of the oldest English-language publication devoted to the writer, the biannual The Nabokovian, is unclear after the retirement of its former editor). As a multilingual periodical, Nabokov Online Journal publishes a balanced selection of mainly English and Russian-language scholarship. In addition to traditional academic articles and reviews, there are contributions in several different formats, including video installations and mp3 files.   

The current readership of the journal comes from over 50 countries, as evidenced by the online tracking tools, and the journal is cited frequently in various print and online publications. To further facilitate access to the publication even easier, the editors decided to create an interactive application (app) for the Nabokov Online Journal available for downloading via App Store and Google Play. The NOJ app will include access to a database, an interactive interface, and study materials. In 2013 the journal also moved to a new platform, which supports reading the journal from mobile devices.

The Nabokov Online Journal considers its mission to stimulate dialogue among international schools of thought, to create a stage for discussion and to coordinate initiatives related to the field of Nabokov studies. In 2014, with the funds available from the Canadian governmental program SSHRC’s (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) Aid to Scholarly Journals, editors were able to devote a special issue to “Scholarship in Translation” (cluster guest-edited by Marijeta Bozovic, Yale University). Most of the articles in translation have been originally published in the area of Nabokov studies during the recent few years in the languages other than English; now they will form a core of Volume 8 (2014). This strategic goal reflects Nabokov Online Journal’s mandate of bridging various branches of Nabokov studies in a dynamic and intellectually creative environment. Moreover, the 2015 upcoming special issue will be devoted to “Intermedial Nabokov and Popular Culture” and will explore the roles and intersections of intermediality and popular culture in Nabokov’s oeuvre and in the present day Nabokov imaginary in the widest sense. Since the 1960s, scholars have been debating the (de)merits of cinematic versions of Lolita. By the turn of the twenty-first century, Nabokov studies began to expand its scope to include discussions of how Nabokov’s narrative texts integrate other media and of how his works are adapted by other artists.

Therefore, in the volume guest-edited by Nassim Balestrini, Karl-Franzens-Universität (Graz, Austria), authors will address the particular significance of intermediality for the absorption of popular culture into Nabokov’s works and vice versa. The editorial board of the Nabokov Online Journal recognizes the importance of training new generations of young scholars. To encourage more active participation of graduate students, the Best Student Essay competition; NOJ also established an annual prize for the Best Scholarly Contribution in the area of Nabokov. The winner of the 2013 prize was announced at a ceremony in the iconic bookstore “Shakespeare and Company,” in Paris, France, marking Nabokov’s 115th and Shakespeare’s 450th double anniversaries.

Each volume of the Nabokov Online Journal usually consists of a dozen articles, as well as roundtable discussions, interviews, and multimedia presentations, and contains hundreds of pages in PDF format. Back in 2008, the journal scored a major coup by publishing an original interview with Dmitri Nabokov, Nabokov’s son (1934–2012) and literary executor, in which he finally announced what he was planning to do with Nabokov’s unfinished book, The Original of Laura. The explicit instructions of his father on his deathbed were to destroy the manuscript — written in pencil on 50 index cards — that had been shut away in a Swiss bank vault for more than thirty years. Instead, as first revealed in the Nabokov Online Journal, Dmitri decided to publish it. This interview was later cited in the American, British, and German press. Interviews with Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia and Nabokov aficionado, and Nikki Smith, Nabokov’s former literary agent, have also been recently appeared in the journal. The Nabokov Online Journal plans further development of the “Digital Media” section of the journal: for instance, instead of a standard downloadable text-based document in an “Interview” section the readers will be able to see the same conversation as a recording in a video format with the web-streaming capability.

In addition to its regular online publication, the Nabokov Online Journal also publishes the Nabokov Almanac, which includes commissioned articles and a selection of materials that have previously appeared in the electronic version of the journal. The inaugural issue of the almanac, “The Goalkeeper” (Nabokov played as a soccer goalkeeper and the game is frequently featured in his novels), appeared in 2010 (Boston: Academic Studies Press); the second volume is currently in progress and is scheduled to appear in 2015. Among the other editions that have lately been produced in close cooperation with the Nabokov Online Journal are the two books: Lolita – The Story of a Cover Girl: Vladimir Nabokov’s Novel in Art and Design, ed. John Bertram and Yuri Leving (New York: Print, 2013), and Shades of Laura: Vladimir Nabokov’s Last Novel, The Original of Laura, ed. Yuri Leving (Montreal: McGill Queens University Press, 2013). During the European book launch of these two editions, dozens of readers joined the conversation on Nabokov’s legacy with participants Lara Delage-Toriel (President of the French Vladimir Nabokov Society), Samuel Schuman (Past President of the International Vladimir Nabokov Society, the author of Nabokov’s Shakespeare (Bloomsbury, 2014)), and Yuri Leving, at the event called “The Original of Lolita: Celebrating Nabokov’s Birthday in Paris,” held on 24 April, 2014.