Fyodor Dostoevsky is a nationalistic, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, anti-Polish, anti-European (and certainly anti-American), fanatically religious, politically conservative 19th century Russian writer. What is it about this man’s literature that forces itself mercilessly and inescapably on our imaginations no matter how up-to-date and politically correct we consider ourselves to be? Why do Dostoevsky’s texts continue to haunt us like a bad trip no matter how far removed we may be from God -- the search for whom is Dostoevsky’s main concern? What does Virginia Woolf mean when she writes that reading Dostoevsky: “against our wills we are drawn in, whirled round, blinded, suffocated, and at the same time filled with a giddy rapture.” Why does Edmund Gosse call Dostoevsky’s novels “the cocaine and morphia of modern literature?” In this class we undertake the exhilarating task of reading Dostoevsky’s most intense novels: Notes from the Underground, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov. Our goal in this class is a dual one: to understand the importance of these works in the historical and social context in which they were written, and also to consider what ethical force Dostoevsky’s literature has over us, its 21st century readers. All readings and discussions in English.
Satisfies the Franklin College Literature requirement.