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Dostoevsky and the Ethics of Narrative Form: Suspense, Closure, Minor Characters
by Greta Matzner-Gore
Northwestern University Press
Paper: 978-0-8101-4197-1 | Cloth: 978-0-8101-4198-8 | eISBN: 978-0-8101-4199-5

Three questions of novelistic form preoccupied Fyodor Dostoevsky throughout his career: how to build suspense, how to end a narrative effectively, and how to distribute attention among major and minor characters. For Dostoevsky, these were much more than practical questions about novelistic craft; they were ethical questions as well.
Dostoevsky and the Ethics of Narrative Form traces Dostoevsky’s indefatigable investigations into the ethical implications of his own formal choices. Drawing on his drafts, notebooks, and writings on aesthetics, Greta Matzner-Gore argues that Dostoevsky wove the moral and formal questions that obsessed him into the fabric of his last three novels: Demons, The Adolescent, and The Brothers Karamazov. In so doing, Dostoevsky anticipated some of the most pressing debates taking place in the study of narrative ethics today. Can reading novels make us more compassionate and sensitive to emotional nuance? Or is the act of reading, instead, a variety of voyeurism? By placing Dostoevsky in dialogue with thinkers such as Wayne Booth, Suzanne Keen, and Alex Woloch and providing a fresh assessment of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, this book makes an important contribution not only to Dostoevsky studies but also to the field of narrative ethics.

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