On the Panoptical Eye of Self-Caring in Nabokov’s The Eye: A Foucauldian Analysis

Taghizadeh Ali, Haj’jari Mohammad-Javad


Nabokov’s protagonist’s sufferings, suicide, and final happiness in The Eye (1930) can be analyzed through Foucault’s policy of the “care of the self” based on which an individual acts in a parrhesiastic relationship with himself to panoptically watch and discover himself. Smurov’s first-person I/eye sacrifices his former self to be reborn from the surveying eyes of his separated self. This Panopticon metaphor is bifurcated into the monopticon and the synopticon, the former letting Smurov externally watch over himself and the latter reflecting back to him others’ views of him. Thus, Smurov recognizes the true nature of his identity to be the sum of his concept of himself and his reflections in others’ minds. He recognizes that he is always being panoptically watched and created. His final happiness, therefore, emphasizes that identity stands in a symbiotic relationship with the surveillance of the self, without which the individual stays in darkness.


Care of the self; identity; Panopticon; Smurov; surveillance.

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