Confronting Bakhtin’s formative reading of Dostoevsky to recover the ways the novelist stokes conflict and engages readers—and to explore the reasons behind his adversarial approach
Like so many other elements of his work, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s deliberate deployment of provocation was both prescient and precocious. In this book, Lynn Ellen Patyk singles out these forms of incitement as a communicative strategy that drives his paradoxical art. Challenging, revising, and expanding on Mikhail Bakhtin’s foundational analysis in Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, Patyk demonstrates that provocation is the moving mover of Dostoevsky’s poetics of conflict, and she identifies the literary devices he uses to propel plot conflict and capture our attention. Yet the full scope of Dostoevsky’s provocative authorial activity can only be grasped alongside an understanding of his key themes, which both probed and exploited the most divisive conflicts of his era. The ultimate stakes of such friction are, for him, nothing less than moral responsibility and the truth of identity.
Sober and strikingly original, compassionate but not uncritical, Dostoevsky’s Provocateurs exposes the charged current in the wiring of our modern selves. In an economy of attention and its spoils, provocation is an inexhaustibly renewable and often toxic resource.