Slavic 39O / Philosophy 39: Freshman and Sophomore Seminar: “The Brothers Karamazov: Literature and Philosophy”

F 2-4, 106 Wheeler. Instructor: Irina Paperno and Hubert L. Dreyfus (Philosophy).

Units: 2 (P/NP only)

This is a team taught and cross-listed course between the Philosophy and Slavic departments.  Students may choose to enroll in either the Philosophy 39 or Slavic 39O side of the course.  Noted below are the separate Course Control Numbers to choose from when registering.

Slavic 39O Course Control Number: 79748
Philosophy 39 Course Control Number: 67180

When Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov first appeared, in 1879, its first readers experience the novel as a call to personal, social, and political renewal. One reader wrote: “After the Karamazovs (and while reading it), I looked around in horror that everything went on as before, that the world did not shift on its axis. . .” Dostoevsky himself thought that the main question of the novel was the need for God and immortality, but many read the novel in a secular mode, asking: What is evil? Why do the innocent suffer? Where are the limits of each person’s moral responsibility for the problems of the world? Is love before logic? The novel deals with some of our deepest anxieties:  the feeling of aggression against one’s own family, rebellion against established authority, and experience of sexual desire. Today, it speaks to our experience of isolation and appeals to forces that draw human beings joyfully together. The novel does not provide answers through logical argumentation: it is a complex literary form.

This team-taught seminar (cross listed in the departments of Philosophy and Slavic Languages and Literatures) will discuss the novel from the double perspective of literature and philosophy.  Feel free to register either in Philosophy 39 or Slavic Languages and Literatures 39O.

There are no prerequisites. Students should be prepared for intense reading and class discussions.

Hubert L. Dreyfus is Professor Emeritus and Professor of Graduate School in the Department of Philosophy. His major interests are phenomenology, existentialism, philosophy of psychology, philosophy of literature, the philosophical implications of artificial intelligence.

Irina Paperno is Professor and Chair in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. She works as a literary scholar and intellectual historian, focusing on literature and experience.

Reading:  Fedor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, trans. Constance Garnett
(Dover Giant Thrift Edition). Work load: approximately 50 pages of reading a week.