Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Paul Schmidt - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Marti Singer

Third Advisor

Dr. Chris Kocela


This thesis examines the debate between morality and aesthetics that is outlined by Nabokov in Lolita’s afterword. Incorporating a discussion of Lolita’s critical history in order to reveal how critics have chosen a single, limited side of the debate, either the moral or aesthetic, this thesis seeks to expose the complexities of the novel where morality and aesthetics intersect. First, the general moral and aesthetic features of Lolita are discussed. Finally, I address the two together, illustrating how Lolita cannot be categorized as immoral, amoral, or didactic. Instead, it is through the juxtaposition of form and content, parody and reality, that the intersection of aesthetics and morality appears, subverting and repudiating the voice of its own narrator and protagonist, evoking sympathy for an appropriated and abused child, and challenging readers to evaluate their own ethical boundaries.