This article explores the role of surveillance in Vladimir Nabokov's novel Pnin both within its contemporary political context and as a response to two earlier examples of American campus fiction: Randall Jarrell's Pictures from an Institution and Mary McCarthy's The Groves of Academe. In particular, Pnin resonates not only with the text of McCarthy's novel but also with McCarthy's practice of appropriating the lives of others in her fiction. In important respects, McCarthy and Nabokov take their cue from Dostoevsky's The Possessed, but while McCarthy depoliticizes Dostoevsky's novel by turning it into dark comedy, Pnin transforms the world of Dostoevsky's novels from a forum of ideas into an arena for the struggles of metafiction. At a time when Joseph McCarthy was concerned with the infiltration of American institutions by communist agents, Russian literature, and in particular Dostoevsky, played a crucial part in the birth of the American campus novel.

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