When geniuses meet, something extraordinary happens, like lightning produced from colliding clouds, observed Russian poet Alexander Blok. There is perhaps no literary collision more fascinating and deserving of study than the relationship between Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837), Russia's greatest poet, and Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–81), its greatest prose writer. In the twentieth century, Pushkin, "Russia's Shakespeare," became enormously influential, his literary successors universally acknowledging and venerating his achievements. In the nineteenth century, however, it was Dostoevsky more than any other Russian writer who wrestled with Pushkin's legacy as cultural icon and writer. Though he idolized Pushkin in his later years, the younger Dostoevsky exhibited a much more contentious relationship with his eminent precursor.
In Challenging the Bard, Gary Rosenshield engages with the critical histories of these two literary titans, illuminating how Dostoevsky reacted to, challenged, adapted, and ultimately transformed the work of his predecessor Pushkin. Focusing primarily on Dostoevsky's works through 1866—including Poor Folk, The Double, Mr. Prokharchin, The Gambler, and Crime and Punishment—Rosenshield observes that the younger writer's way to literary greatness was not around Pushkin, but through him. By examining each literary figure in terms of the other, Rosenshield demonstrates how Dostoevsky both deviates from and honors the work of Pushkin. At its core, Challenging the Bard offers a unique perspective on the poetry of the master, Pushkin, the prose of his successor, Dostoevsky, and the nature of literary influence.
Most discussions of sexuality in the work of Dostoevsky have been framed in Freudian terms. But Dostoevsky himself wrote about sexuality from a decidedly pre-Freudian perspective. By looking at the views of human sexual development that were available in Dostoevsky's time and that he, an avid reader and observer of his own social context, absorbed and reacted to, Susanne Fusso gives us a new way of understanding a critical element in the writing of one of Russia's literary masters. Beyond discovering Dostoevsky's own views and representations of sexuality as a reflection of his culture and his time, Fusso also explores his artistic treatment of how children and adolescents discover sexuality as part of their growth.
Some of the topics Fusso considers are Dostoevsky's search for an appropriate artistic language for sexuality, a young narrator's experimentation with homoerotic desire and unconventional narrative in A Raw Youth; and Dostoevsky's approach to a young man's sexual development in A Raw Youth and The Brothers Karamazov. She also explores his complex treatment of a child's secret sexuality in his account of the Kroneberg child abuse case in A Writer's Diary; and his conception of the ideal family, a type of family that appears in his works mainly by negative example. Focusing mainly on sexual practices considered "deviant" in Dostoevsky's time--both because these are the practices that his young characters confront and because they offer the most intriguing interpretive problems--Fusso decodes the author's texts and their social contexts. In doing so, she highlights one thread in the intricate thematic weave of Dostoevsky's novels and newly illuminates his artistic process.
Dostoevsky and Romantic Realism is Donald Fanger's groundbreaking study of the art of Dostoevsky and the literary and historical context in which it was created. Through detailed analyses of the work of Balzac, Dickens, and Gogol, Fanger identifies romantic realism, the transformative fusion of two generic categories, as a powerful imaginary response to the great modern city. This fusion reaches its aesthetic and metaphysical climax in Dostoevsky, whose vision culminating in Crime and Punishment is seen by Fanger as the final synthesis of romantic realism.
While Dostoevsky’s relation to religion is well-trod ground, there exists no comprehensive study of Dostoevsky and Catholicism. Elizabeth Blake’s ambitious and learned Dostoevsky and the Catholic Underground fills this glaring omission in the scholarship. Previous commentators have traced a wide-ranging hostility in Dostoevsky’s understanding of Catholicism to his Slavophilism. Blake depicts a far more nuanced picture. Her close reading demonstrates that he is repelled and fascinated by Catholicism in all its medieval, Reformation, and modern manifestations. Dostoevsky saw in Catholicism not just an inspirational source for the Grand Inquisitor but a political force, an ideological wellspring, a unique mode of intellectual inquiry, and a source of cultural production. Blake’s insightful textual analysis is accompanied by an equally penetrating analysis of nineteenth-century European revolutionary history, from Paris to Siberia, that undoubtedly influenced the evolution of Dostoevsky’s thought.
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, he anticipated some of the most pressing debates taking place in the study of narrative ethics today.
Dostoevsky was hostile to the notion of individual autonomy, and yet, throughout his life and work, he vigorously advocated the freedom and inviolability of the self. This ambivalence has animated his diverse and often self-contradictory legacy: as precursor of psychoanalysis, forefather of existentialism, postmodernist avant la lettre, religious traditionalist, and Romantic mystic.
Dostoevsky and the Riddle of the Self charts a unifying path through Dostoevsky's artistic journey to solve the “mystery” of the human being. Starting from the unusual forms of intimacy shown by characters seeking to lose themselves within larger collective selves, Yuri Corrigan approaches the fictional works as a continuous experimental canvas on which Dostoevsky explored the problem of selfhood through recurring symbolic and narrative paradigms. Presenting new readings of such works as The Idiot, Demons,and The Brothers Karamazov, Corrigan tells the story of Dostoevsky’s career-long journey to overcome the pathology of collectivism by discovering a passage into the wounded, embattled, forbidding, revelatory landscape of the psyche.
Corrigan’s argument offers a fundamental shift in theories about Dostoevsky's work and will be of great interest to scholars of Russian literature, as well as to readers interested in the prehistory of psychoanalysis and trauma studies and in theories of selfhood and their cultural sources.
In the essays brought together in this volume Shestov presents a profound and original analysis of the thought of three of the most brilliant literary figures of nineteenth-century Europe—Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Nietzsche—all of whom had a decisive influence on the development of his own philosophy.
According to Shestov, the greatness of these writers consists in their deep probing into the question of the meaning of life and the problems of human suffering, evil, and death. That all three of them at times abandoned their probing and lapsed into the banality of preaching does not diminish their stature but shows only that there are limits to man’s capacity for looking unflichingly at reality.
Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Nietzsche are united, in Shestov’s view, by their common insight into the essential tragedy of human life—a tragedy which no increase in scientific knowledge and no degree of political and social reform can significantly mitigate but which can ultimately be redeemed only by faith in the omnipotent God proclaimed by the Bible.
In all three of his subjects Shestov sees a rebellion against the tyranny of idealist systems of philosophy, as well as a recognition that the supposedly universal and necessary laws discovered by science and the moral principles for which autonomous ethics claims eternal validity do not liberate man but rather crush and destroy him. This rebellion and this recognition are often suppressed by Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Nietzsche, byt they break forth again and again with overwhelming power.
In this provocative discussion of the novels and stories of the two celebrated Russian writers and of the essays and aphorisms of the solitary German philosopher whose genius was finally extinguished by insanity, Shestov finds ideas and insights that other critics have overlooked or the important of which they have not adequately understood. The value of his achievement has been widely recognized. Prince Mirsky, for example, does not hesitate to say in his authorative history of Russian literature that, as far as Dostoevsky is concerned, Shestov is undoubtedly his greatest commentator.
The reader will find in these remarkable studies of the men who exercised the strongest intellectual influence on the young Shestov the beginnings of the Russian philosopher’s own lifelong polemic against idealism, scientism, and conventional morality, as well as the first gropings of the quest for faith in the Biblical God that was to become the leitmotif of all his thinking and writing in the last decades of his life.
This innovative study brings the early writings of Mikhail Bakhtin into conversation with Max Scheler and Fyodor Dostoevsky to explore the question of what makes emotional co-experiencing ethically and spiritually productive. In Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, Bakhtin's well-known concept of the dialogical partner expresses what he sees as the potential of human relationships in Dostoevsky's work. But his earlier reflections on the ethical and aesthetic uses of empathy, in part inspired by Scheler's philosophy, suggest a still more fundamental form of communication that operates as a basis for human togetherness in Dostoevsky. Applying this rich and previously neglected theoretical apparatus in a literary analysis, Wyman examines the obstacles to active empathy in Dostoevsky's fictional world, considers the limitations and excesses of empathy, addresses the problem of frustrated love in The Idiot and Notes from Underground, and provides a fresh interpretation of two of Dostoevsky's most iconic characters, Prince Myshkin and Alyosha Karamazov.
What makes some characters seem so real? Mimetic Lives: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Character in the Novel explores this question through readings of major works by Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Working at the height of the Russian realist tradition, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky each discovered unprecedented techniques for intensifying the aesthetic illusion that Chloë Kitzinger calls mimetic life—the reader’s sense of a character’s autonomous, embodied existence. At the same time, both authors tested the practical limits of that illusion by extending it toward the novel’s formal and generic bounds: philosophy, history, journalism, theology, myth.
Through new readings of War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, and other novels, Kitzinger traces a productive tension between mimetic characterization and the author’s ambition to transform the reader. She shows how Tolstoy and Dostoevsky create lifelike characters and why the dream of carrying the illusion of “life” beyond the novel consistently fails. Mimetic Lives challenges the contemporary truism that novels educate us by providing enduring models for the perspectives of others, with whom we can then better empathize. Seen close, the realist novel’s power to create a world of compelling fictional persons underscores its resources as a form for thought, and its limits as a direct source of spiritual, social, or political change.
Drawing on scholarship in Russian literary studies as well as the theory of the novel, Kitzinger’s lucid work of criticism will intrigue and challenge scholars working in both fields.
After more than a century, the urgency with which the writing of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Friedrich Nietzsche speaks to us is undiminished. Nietzsche explicitly acknowledged Dostoevsky’s relevance to his work, noting its affinities as well as its points of opposition. Both of them are credited with laying much of the foundation for what came to be called existentialist thought. The essays in this volume bring a fresh perspective to a relationship that illuminates a great deal of twentieth-century intellectual history. Among the questions taken up by contributors are the possibility of morality in a godless world, the function of philosophy if reason is not the highest expression of our humanity, the nature of tragedy when performed for a bourgeois audience, and the justification of suffering if it is not divinely sanctioned. Above all, these essays remind us of the supreme value of the questioning itself that pervades the work of Dostoevsky and Nietzsche.
Scholars have long been fascinated by the creative struggles with genre manifested throughout Dostoevsky’s career. In The Novel in the Age of Disintegration, Kate Holland shows that Dostoevsky aimed to use the form of the novel as a means of depicting the disintegration caused by various crises in Russian society in the 1860s. This required him to reinvent the genre. At the same time, he sought to infuse his novels with the capacity to inspire belief in social and spiritual reintegration, and to this end he returned to old forms and structures that were already becoming outmoded.
In thoughtful readings of Demons, The Adolescent, A Writer’s Diary, and The Brothers Karamazov, Holland delineates Dostoevsky’s struggle to adapt a genre to the reality of the present, with all its upheavals, while maintaining a utopian vision of Russia’s future mission.
Reader as Accomplice: Narrative Ethics in Dostoevsky and Nabokov argues that Fyodor Dostoevsky and Vladimir Nabokov seek to affect the moral imagination of their readers by linking morally laden plots to the ethical questions raised by narrative fiction at the formal level. By doing so, these two authors ask us to consider and respond to the ethical demands that narrative acts of representation and interpretation place on authors and readers.
Using the lens of narrative ethics, Alexander Spektor brings to light the important, previously unexplored correspondences between Dostoevsky and Nabokov. Ultimately, he argues for a productive comparison of how each writer investigates the ethical costs of narrating oneself and others. He also explores the power dynamics between author, character, narrator, and reader. In his readings of such texts as “The Meek One” and The Idiot by Dostoevsky and Bend Sinister and Despair by Nabokov, Spektor demonstrates that these authors incite the reader’s sense of ethics by exposing the risks but also the possibilities of narrative fiction.
Russia’s Capitalist Realism examines how the literary tradition that produced the great works of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Anton Chekhov responded to the dangers and possibilities posed by Russia’s industrial revolution. During Russia’s first tumultuous transition to capitalism, social problems became issues of literary form for writers trying to make sense of economic change. The new environments created by industry, such as giant factories and mills, demanded some kind of response from writers but defied all existing forms of language.
This book recovers the rich and lively public discourse of this volatile historical period, which Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov transformed into some of the world’s greatest works of literature. Russia’s Capitalist Realism will appeal to readers interested in nineteenth-century Russian literature and history, the relationship between capitalism and literary form, and theories of the novel.
Anna A. Berman’s book brings to light the significance of sibling relationships in the writings of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Relationships in their works have typically been studied through the lens of erotic love in the former, and intergenerational conflict in the latter.
In close readings of their major novels, Berman shows how both writers portray sibling relationships as a stabilizing force that counters the unpredictable, often destructive elements of romantic entanglements and the hierarchical structure of generations. Power and interconnectedness are cast in a new light. Berman persuasively argues that both authors gradually come to consider siblinghood a model of all human relations, discerning a career arc in each that moves from the dynamics within families to a much broader vision of universal brotherhood.
The defining quality of Russian literature, for most critics, is its ethical seriousness expressed through formal originality. The Trace of Judaism addresses this characteristic through the thought of the Lithuanian-born Franco-Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. Steeped in the Russian classics from an early age, Levinas drew significantly from Dostoevsky in his ethical thought. One can profitably read Russian literature through Levinas, and vice versa.
Vinokur links new readings of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Isaac Babel, and Osip Mandelstam to the work of Levinas, to ask: How does Judaism haunt Russian literature? In what ways is Levinas' ethics as "Russian" as it is arguably "Jewish"? And more broadly, how do ethics and aesthetics inflect each other? Vinokur considers how the encounter with the other invokes responsibilities ethical and aesthetic, and shows how the volatile relationship between ethics and aesthetics--much like the connection between the Russian and Jewish traditions--may be inextricably symbiotic. In an ambitious work that illuminates the writings of all of these authors, Vinokur pursues the implications of this reading for our understanding of the function of literature--its unique status as a sphere in which an ethical vision such as that of Levinas becomes comprehensible.
Dostoevsky’s views on punishment are usually examined through the prism of his Christian commitments. For some, this means an orientation toward mercy; for others, an affirmation of suffering as a path to redemption. Anna Schur incorporates sources from philosophy, criminology, psychology, and history to argue that Dostoevsky’s thinking about punishment was shaped not only by his Christian ethics but also by the debates on penal theory and practice unfolding during his lifetime.
As Dostoevsky attempts to balance the various ethical and cultural imperatives, he displays ambivalence both about punishment and about mercy. This ambivalence, Schur argues, is further complicated by what Dostoevsky sees as the unfathomable quality of the self, which hinders every attempt to match crimes with punishments. The one certainty he holds is that a proper response to wrongdoing must include a concern for the wrongdoer’s moral improvement.
Gary Rosenshield offers a new interpretation of Dostoevsky's greatest novel, The Brothers Karamazov. He explores Dostoevsky's critique and exploitation of the jury trial for his own ideological agenda, both in his journalism and his fiction, contextualizing his portrayal of trials and trial participants (lawyers, jurors, defendants, judges) in the political, social, and ideological milieu of his time. Further, the author presents Dostoevsky's critique in terms of the main notions of the critical legal studies movement in the United States, showing how, over one hundred and twenty years ago, Dostoevsky explicitly dealt with the same problems that the law-and-literature movement has been confronting over the past two decades. This book should appeal to anyone with an interest in Russian literature, Russian history and culture, legal studies, law and literature, narratology, or metafiction and literary theory.