In this course, we will read Dostoevsky’s major works (Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Brothers Karamazov, and some short works), focusing on concerns literature shares with psychology, philosophy, and ethics. Exploring the structure of a literary text (genre, narrative, symbolism), we will discuss how Dostoevsky’s novels explore the workings of the human mind, the drama of interpersonal intimacy, conceptions of personality (or self), the relationship between self and other, the choice between faith and atheism, the idea of transgression and crime, and more.
We will also follow events of Dostoevsky’s dramatic life (his father’s murder, his execution, imprisonment, religious conversion, gambling, epilepsy, and political prophecies), which assumed cultural significance for generations of readers.
Still, Dostoevsky’s novels are not only profound examinations of the human condition: they are also exciting, nasty, ironic and often funny, and in this class, we will try to enjoy reading his books.
Prerequisites: none. Readings and lectures are conducted in English; advanced speakers of Russian are encouraged to read in the original.
Requirements: intense reading (up to 200 pages per week); regular attendance, a midterm, final examination, and one paper.
Books: purchase the following, inexpensive, editions (we will use Constance Garnett translations):
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment ed. George Gibian. A Norton Critical Edition. Paperback. ISBN 0-393-95623-7
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot, Constance Garnett, Translator. Bantam Classic Mass Market. ISBN 0-553-21352-0.
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Constance Garnett, translator. Dover Thrift Editions. Paperback. ISBN 0-486-43791-4
Option: with concurrent enrollment in Slavic 134R (1 unit), a student can write a research paper (10-15 pages) on a topic of their choice, supervised by the instructor in individual consultations.