This course has two major emphases. First, we will examine the writings of Fyodor Dostoevsky in light of the social problems of his day and of his own personal search for a means of reconciling his early social radicalism and awareness of scientific materialism with his belief that he and the Russian people needed God and truth if they were to retain their identity. Dostoevsky will be discussed both as a quintessentially Russian writer who created a new form of the novel and as a great thinker with profound insights into the relationships between human psychology, justice and faith. The relations between literature and journalism will also be discussed as we consider his Russian messianism and his anti-Semitism. Second, we will discuss the influence of Dostoevsky on Twentieth Century thought, particularly through the writings of Mikhail Bakhtin on the dialogic novel, the dialogic self, and dialogic truth.
The course will be taught as a seminar with ideas presented through discussion. Students are expected to take an active role in the course through the presentation of their ideas and by asking questions. The reading list is short so that we will have time to discuss these works in depth and both listen to and comment on student presentations during the semester. You will make these presentations in small groups. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to find out what happened. You might be assigned to make a presentation in your absence.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Crime & Punishment
Notes from Underground/The Double
Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics
Konstantin Mochulsky, Dostoevsky, His Life and Work
The recommended texts are also on reserve in the library. I may hand out short excerpts from Bakhtin and other writers during the course. Mochulsky is one of the best overall accounts of Dostoevsky's writing in a Russian context. You should use it as a general background source. Read the chapters on the works we are discussing. Bakhtin's study lays out his account of Dostoevsky as a revolutionary figure who created a new form of the novel. Although it is not easy reading, it is one of those books which anyone who does serious work in the humanities or cultural studies will eventually read or at least hear of. Bakhtin's own theory of culture, psychology, ethics, and communication has had some influence on nearly all academic disciplines and discussions of language and culture in the last 30 years.
Class Participation (including in-class presentations) 25%
Three Short Papers (3-4 pgs,) 50%
Final Paper (10 pgs.) 25%
A major portion of the long paper must be on The Brothers Karamazov.
The due dates for the short essays are indicated in the Class Schedule.
January 15 Introduction
Part One: Dostoevsky's Shorter Works
17 "The Double"
24 "Notes from Underground"
February 5 "
Part II: The Causes of Crime, the Possibility of Redemption, and the First Long Novel: The mystery becomes the philosophical novel?
7 Crime and Punishment
March 12 "
Short essay two is due at the end of this week.
Part III: On Russia and the Human Condition: Guilt, Hope, and the Existence of God in the Modern Age
March 19 Brothers Karamazov
April 2 "
The short essay on the Brothers Karamazov is due at the end of this week.
The final paper will be due on the date scheduled for the final exam. A major
portion of the long paper must be on The Brothers Karamazov.