Student Wins National Writing Award

Excellence in Interdisciplinary Writing Award given to MALS student Meg Cook.

By Katie Pelletier ’03 | October 22, 2018

Congratulations to MALS student Meg Cook, who recently won the Excellence in Interdisciplinary Writing award for her paper “America’s Poshlust Vacuum: The Young-Girl, Émigré, and Artist in Nabokov’s Lolita.” Her paper will be published in the Fall 2018 issue of Confluence and she will receive an award of $500. The award is given by the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs (AGSLP).

Meg’s paper came out of a MALS course on the novels of Vladimir Nabokov taught by Prof. Lena Lencek [Russian 1977–]. Her argument concerns Nabokov’s novel Lolita and its depiction of the relationship between capitalism and young women and girls. Her idea for the paper took shape after reading Nabokov’s biography of Gogol. “I came across this term poshlust that struck me as so perfect for describing American culture, but of course such a term doesn’t really exist in English.” The word “trashy” comes close, she says. She was also reading the theoretical works of an anonymous French theorist group from the ’90s named Tiqqun. Using their theory about the young-girl figure in Western capitalist societies, Meg examines the character Lolita and the culture she represents as the epitome of poshlust America. “Lolita’s poshlust only manifests because the consumer-fetishistic society—especially the mid-century ideals lampooned in Lolita—depend on her existence and its manipulation.” She further argues that Nabokov is implicated in the culture he aims to critique. She notes that she is interested in the author-figure’s presence in fiction as well as gender theory, and the paper gave her the opportunity to explore both of these.

Meg traveled to Tempe, Arizona, to accept her award at the AGLSP conference at Arizona State University. She will begin her thesis in  2019. In the meantime, she’s reading Nabokov again in Prof. Ulker Gokberk’s course The Immigrant As Protagonist, which she’s taking this semester.

Tags: Academics, Research, Students, Awards & Achievements