Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Pat Rogers, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Victor Peppard, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Silvio Gaggi, Ph.D.


Law and Literature, Ford Maddox Ford, Vladimir Nabokov


This dissertation will apply the structure of a legal trial’s procedures to two Modernist novels: Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier (1915) and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955). These novels position themselves as renderings of legal proceedings, the written memoriam of metaphorical trials conducted by first person narrators who alternatively and simultaneously function as Plaintiff’s counsel, Defense Counsel and finally as witnesses to the events of the story. All of these personae reveal evidence and testimony presented in the forum of a trial of the central characters who recollect legal events and whose narrations develop moral questions. Thus these narrations are the court record, from which there is no appeal, culminating in not only persuasive arguments about guilt and innocence of the central characters, but also demanding that a verdict or moral judgment be rendered by the reader of these behaviors and values of the individuals as well as the societies which these authors critique in their novels. Ford Madox Ford in The Good Soldier (1915) and Vladimir Nabokov in Lolita (1955) create fictional artifacts which instill impressions of human life and present specific revelations of human nature in their art. Their narratives explain certain events in a temporal order, which communicate to readers a fictional world, its participants, and especially their emotions. These particular novels are early and late examples of iv Modernism, and are very different from one another, yet both illustrate the characteristics that so clearly define the Modern novel: art’s ability to engage not just the mind but the senses; the reader does not just read, but rather becomes immersed in the feelings of the characters in the story. The reader feels the dynamics between the characters through the narrative presentation as closely as possible to his or her being actually present in the fictionally created world of the novel. Both novels present their stories in a thrice-told frame that allows the character/narrators to explore epistemology and justifications for their acts or inaction. These stories are recollections, so that each character/narrator is remembering his respective narrative after the facts; these novels are unique for this timing.