Literature and Lepidopterology

Ron Rosenbaum in The Secret Parts of Fortune on the coherence between Nabokov’s love of literature and his love of lepidopterology:

What they have in common, I came to realize, is that they are both, the literary and the butterfly work, about language. What VN was doing in his lovingly obsessive study of wing-marking patterns and genital morphology was an act of reading; he was reading and translating the language, the esoteric geonetic poetics of butterfly markings. It’s something I began to get an amorphous feeling for from a close reading of the lepidopteral monographs. I came upon an explicit clue at the close of VN’s major work on the butterfly genus Lycaeides, one he’d devoted much of his life to limning. Summing up in his incredibly painstaking, dizzyingly detailed attempt to describe and categorize the variety of wing patterns of Lycaeides, to find meaning in the subtle shifts in the pigmentation of the tiny “maculations,” he adds, “In conclusion, a few words may be said concerning the specific repetition, rhythm, scope and expression of the genetic characters supplied in the eight categories discussed.” … Repetition, rhythm, scope and expression: These are the terms of prosody, the study of poetic metrics …

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