Nabokov had secured his May 1940 exit from Paris with the promise of a summer stint teaching creative writing - primarily drama - and Russian literature the following year at Stanford. After supporting himself and his family for nearly two decades tutoring language and literature, and failing to find a more stable teaching post in England, it was less than he had hoped for. But he was optimistic: by the time of his arrival he had prepared over a hundred lectures in anticipation of a steady income to be derived from university teaching.
Following the summer in Palo Alto, he spent an enjoyable and productive year at Wellesley as a writer-in-residence, a post that allowed him a good deal of free time to pursue his own literary ideas as well as lepidopteral work. He began making frequent trips into Cambridge, to Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. He hoped his Wellesley post would be made permanent, but it was not - though Wellesley continued to provide increasingly welcome teaching opportunities until Cornell tendered a more substantial offer for 1959. At the end of the 1941-42 academic year, he moved his family to Cambridge, where as a Research Fellow he received a modest salary. Forced to supplement this income with occasional satellite lectures, he wrote to Edmund Wilson in frustration: "Funny - to know Russian better than any living person - in America at least - and more English than any Russian in America - and to experience such difficulty in getting a university job. I am getting rather jittery about next year."
In 1943, Nabokov offered a non-credit course in elementary Russian at Wellesley, and the following year became a Lecturer in Russian Language. The translations he had prepared for his Stanford and Wellesley classes soon grew into publication projects. He adapted his Gogol lectures - on "The Overcoat" and Dead Souls - into a study published by New Directions in 1944; the Lermontov, Tyutchev, and Pushkin translations comprised Three Russian Poets, published soon after. The translation of Pushkin into English would become an active lifelong goal. By the fall of 1946, he was able to add to his agenda a course in Russian literature in translation, and had two years of experience with those lectures before Cornell wooed him away from Wellesley with promises of a more substantial post, as head of the Russian department - a department that failed to materialize during the decade he spent at the university.
Nabokov made his home at Cornell from the fall of 1948 through January 1959, with an occasional hiatus. His first courses were surveys of Russian literature, in the original and in translation, including works by Tolstoy (Anna Karenina, "the supreme masterpiece of nineteenth-century literature," and "The Death of Ivan Ilyich"), Gogol (Dead Souls and "The Overcoat"), and sometimes Turgenev (Fathers and Sons). In 1949, he began a Pushkin seminar, which required a good deal of his own translations of Eugene Onegin. A year later he gave his first lecture for Literature 311-312, "Masters of European Fiction," a course that would grow from a modest enrollment of several dozen students in its first year to become the second most popular course at the university in his final term; he delivered his last lecture in Ithaca on January 19, 1959.
The items listed below pertain to Nabokov's life and career and are the contents of the exhibition at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, on view from April 23 through August 21, 1999. This checklist, primarily of items from the Library's Nabokov Archive, is included here to provide a sense of the rich holdings in this special collection.
Stanford University Bulletin, February 1, 1941 (Seventh Series, No. 9)
"Remarks on Democracy"
In: Wellesley College News, 1941, with Nabokov's holograph annotations
Wellesley College Bulletin, catalogue number 1946-1947
Vladimir Nabokov and his Wellesley students, ca. 1945-46
G. A. Birkett
A Modern Russian Course, 2nd revised edition
London: Methuen, 
Nabokov's copy, with his copious holograph annotations
Russian-language class test
Holograph notes, ca. 1942-46
Bondar's Simplified Russian Method, Conversational and Commercial, Sixth Edition
New York: Pittman Publishing Corporation, n.d.
Holograph notebook, with notes for lectures, before 1937
The Portable Anton Chekhov
Edited with an introduction by Avrahm Yarmolinsky
New York: Viking Press, 1947
Nabokov's copy, with his holograph annotations
Translated by Constance Garnett
New York: Random House/Modern Library, n.d.
Nabokov's copy, with his holograph annotations
Holograph and typescript draft of lecture notes, 1950-59?
Vladimir Nabokov, translator
"Three Poems by Fet"
In: The Russian Review, 3, no. 1 (Autumn 1943)
A Hero of Our Time
Translated by Vladimir Nabokov in collaboration with Dmitri Nabokov
Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1958
Tags: V.Nabokov People