Dostoevsky panels at ASEEES 2016!

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by Greta Matzner-Gore

819px-Vasily_Perov_-_Портрет_Ф.М.Достоевского_-_Google_Art_ProjectASEEES is just around the corner, and we’re looking forward to attending the many exciting panels on Dostoevsky. To help spread the word, we’ve compiled two lists: one of panels that focus primarily on Dostoevsky, the other of panels that include papers treating Dostoevsky’s thought and works. Come to as many as you can!

PANELS ON DOSTOEVSKY

THURSDAY

Ideas as Contagion: Dostoevsky’s Aesthetics of Catastrophe and Ethics of Excess

Thu, November 17, 1:00 to 2:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson

Brief Description

The Russian psychologist, V. Bekhterev, theorised about ideas being a form of virus and the spread of ideas a form of infection. Tolstoy spoke positively of “infectiousness” (заразительность) as a major component of popular aesthetics in “What is art?” (1897). In the light of these theories about the communication of ideas, the panel will consider how ideas are structured as ‘objects’ of representation in Dostoevsky’s fiction. The panel is keen to pursue the connection between the model of meaning and modern subjectivity, which emerges from Dostoevsky’s anthropology and aesthetics, and the culture of violence and revolution of his time and of ours. An explanation is sought in the psychoanalytic concept of the ‘real’ which defines the ‘unrepresentable’ or the ‘limit’ in the symbolic order, as well as in ideological constructs, contextualised historically and philosophically.

 

Trauma and Healing in Dostoevsky

Thu, November 17, 3:00 to 4:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson

Brief Description

Pain is at the center of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s conception of human subjectivity. A universally acknowledged master at portraying the plight of the human condition, Dostoevsky is no less adept at exploring various conduits for recovery. This panel will consider different forms of traumatic experience and recovery processes in Dostoevsky’s corpus.

 

The North American Dostoevsky Society: Interdisciplinary Readings

Thu, November 17, 5:00 to 6:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Madison A

Brief Description

This is the annual ASEEES panel sponsored by the North American Dostoevsky Society. This year’s papers each have an interdisciplinary element, as they touch on therapeutic jurisprudence, economic criticism, and ancient philosophy.

 

FRIDAY

 

Global Dostoevskys

Fri, November 18, 8:00 to 9:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson

Brief Description

This panel examines Dostoevsky’s work in its global context, reaching back to eighteenth-century Europe as well as forward to twenty-first century Africa and Asia. Sarah Hudspith’s paper brings together the unlikely combination of The Gambler and Laclos’s Les Liasisons Dangereuses in a comparative exploration of first-person narratives. Jeanne-Marie Jackson explores how two African novelists, Imraan Coovadia and Tendai Huchu, engage with Dostoevsky’s novel of ideas in a post-philosophical context. Connor Doak concentrates on how masculinity figures in contemporary film and TV adaptations of Dostoevsky in Kazakhstan, Japan, and Russia.

 

Formal (Dis)solutions in Later Dostoevsky

Fri, November 18, 10:00 to 11:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson

Brief Description

Each of the papers on this panel explores Dostoevsky’s ambitions for the novel genre as reflected in the experimental narrative forms of his later novels: disputed middles, proliferating endings, and extended prefaces. Focusing (respectively) on The Idiot, The Adolescent, and The Brothers Karamazov, we look at how these strange or estranged forms mirror, make possible, or challenge the novels’ innovative attempts to encompass incommensurability, eschatology, the ordinary, and the divine. As a group, our papers reflect on the contentious and persistent question of what constitutes formal “success” or “failure” in Dostoevsky’s later novels.

 

Dostoevsky’s “Dream of a Ridiculous Man”: Approaches and Perspectives

Fri, November 18, 1:45 to 3:30pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson 

Brief Description

Since its publication in 1877, Dostoevsky’s short story, “Dream of a Ridiculous Man,” has evoked a myriad of conflicting interpretations. It has been read as an account of delusional solipsism and of revelatory religious experience, and its protagonist has been viewed alternately as a prophet, a liar, a megalomaniac, and a saint. In focusing its panelists’ collective energies on this singular short story, the roundtable aims to bring a wide range of interpretations and approaches (from philosophy, literary theory, psychology and psychoanalysis) into dialogue in grasping the story’s elusive poetics, while also treating the story as a test case for mediating diverging approaches to and perspectives on Dostoevsky’s work as a whole.

 

Dostoevsky and the Political Underground: New Perspectives

Fri, November 18, 3:45 to 5:30pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson 

Brief Description

By the time Dostoevsky returned from imprisonment and exile in Siberia, he was certainly not a revolutionary politically, and his critical assessment of progressive liberalism, radicalism, socialism, as well as Westernization in general, is well known. Yet the productive conceptual exchange between Dostoevsky and the opposed political camp–even representatives of the political underground–deserves greater attention. Dostoevsky’s continued interaction with politically engaged intellectuals and revolutionaries would stimulate and enrich his own writings, while his influence on “underground” culture would continue long after his death. This panel will address this crucial aspect of Dostoevsky’s own ideological development and his ultimate cultural legacy through papers that will examine: 1) how Dostoevsky’s contact with former members of the Petrashevsky circle and their Polish and Ukrainian contacts following their Siberian exile helped to shape his concept of the narod, 2) how Dostoevsky helped to formulate the moral-aesthetic ideals that were subsequently embraced by Russian revolutionary terrorists, and 3) how Dostoevsky continues to be a “spiritual mentor” for the underground culture of Russian punk rock.

 

SATURDAY

 

Dostoevsky and the Icon

Sat, November 19, 8:00 to 9:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson

Brief Description

This panel uses the icon as a prism through which to read and interpret the work of Dostoevsky. Recent scholarship out of Russia on the topic of literary icons, iconic vision and the treatment of iconic space provides a rich source of new theoretical approaches to Dostoevsky’s work. The nature of the iconic image allows panelists to consider the relationship among the textual, visual, spiritual and philosophical aspects Dostoevsky’s aesthetics.

 

Russian Literature: Philosophy, Physiology, Intertextuality

Sat, November 19, 8:00 to 9:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jefferson

 

Dostoevsky and Philosophy

Sat, November 19, 10:00 to 11:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson

Brief Description

In 2002, Joseph Scanlan wrote that the “idea of treating a great writer as a philosopher will be unsettling to both writers and philosophers.” It may seem that such “philosophical ghostwriting,” as Scanlan describes it, will do injustice to the literary text; it may also seem that such ghostwriting will fail to be philosophically rigorous. Nonetheless, the influence of philosophy on Dostoevsky and of Dostoevsky on philosophy remains. This panel aims to further investigate those influences in an attempt to do justice to both Dostoevsky’s thought and writing.

 

Consciousness and Selfhood in Dostoevsky

Sat, November 19, 1:45 to 3:30pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson 

Brief Description

This panel examines the interactions among the elements of personality – mind, consciousness, the unconscious, soul, body – that constitute and inform Dostoevsky’s complex and synthetic understanding of the human being. David Powelstock examines the consequences of the fracturing of mind and body in Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground. Evgenia Cherkasova explores the importance of unconscious experience in Brothers Karamazov as a catalyst for existential responsibility. Yuri Corrigan explores how Dostoevsky’s ambivalent and potentially paradoxical attitude to the concept of the self finds resolution in the Brothers Karamazov through Dostoevsky’s study of how the personality constitutes itself through reliance on the agencies of others.

 

Crime and Punishment at 150: Reconsidering the Novel’s Epilogue

Sat, November 19, 3:45 to 5:30pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson 

Brief Description

2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. This panel will mark the occasion by reconsidering the novel’s controversial and much disputed epilogue. These three papers each take a different methodological approach to this problem. Bowers examines the epilogue from the perspective of genre theory, exploring where its tension between form and philosophy originates, and analyzing the work’s application of the “lowbrow” genre of detective fiction to its “highbrow” artistic ambitions. Holland compares the epilogue with the ending of The Brothers Karamazov, examining both from the perspective of Dostoevsky’s attempt to become reconciled to the novelistic form’s resistance to salvific narratives. Young uses distance reading tools, such as concordances and topic modelling, to compare the epilogue’s lexical patterns to those of the Petersburg text and Dostoevsky’s carceral works and to suggest further possibilities for digital analysis of Dostoevsky’s works.

PANELS FEATURING PAPERS ON DOSTOEVSKY

 

THURSDAY

 

Emotions in Russian Literature I

Thu, November 17, 1:00 to 2:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Johnson

 Brief Description

This is the first of three interconnected panels about emotions in Russian literature. In this particular panel we consider melancholia in Chekhov, as well as the emotional valences of Russian literature for actors and mental health professionals. Whether as readers, actors, or social workers, all those exposed to Russian literature are confronted with its deep emotionalism.

 

Gender and Sexuality in 19C Russian Literature & Art

Thu, November 17, 1:00 to 2:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Hoover 

Brief Description

This roundtable brings together a group of early-career researchers whose work explores gender and sexuality in 19C Russian literature and art. Our roundtable considers whether and how recent theoretical perspectives on gender and sexuality (queer theory, affect theory, theories of men & masculinity) can illuminate 19C literature and art. We each bring our own case study to the table: Connor Doak (Bristol) will address performances of masculinity in the early Dostoevskii; Allison Leigh (Cooper Union) will speak on men in paintings of interiors from the 1830s-40s in relation to Pushkin’s Evgenii Onegin; Emily Wang (Princeton) will discuss homosocial affect in the Decembrist movement and Decembrist poetry; Jennifer Wilson will speak on Spinsters in Tolstoy and Queer Theory. However, we envisage the roundtable will not just be a series of close readings of texts, but also a broader discussion of the possibilities and pitfalls of bringing contemporary theory to 19C Russian culture.

 

The Relevance of Russian Thinkers: Contemporary Approaches to Nihilism, post-Nihilism and Relativism

Thu, November 17, 3:00 to 4:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Lobby Level, Delaware B 

Brief Description

From Nietzsche to Heidegger to postmodernism, Western debates on the significance and value of life have taken cues from the Russian intellectual tradition. The interrelated problems of nihilism and its overcoming have acquired special urgency in the last fifteen years since 9/11. In their responses to the contemporary global intellectual, axiological and political crises, Western philosophers have been once again drawing extensively on such Russian thinkers as Herzen, Bakunin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Alexandre Kojève and some others. The goal of our roundtable is to bring attention to this recent intellectual trend and discuss its implications for the development of the Slavic field worldwide. The theme of this roundtable fits well with the main theme of the 2016 Convention, “Global Conversations.”

 

The Power of (Mis)Reading: Literature and Journalism in the Second Half of the 19th Century

Thu, November 17, 3:00 to 4:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Lobby Level, Park Tower Room 8205 

Brief Description

In the middle of the 19th century, thick journals reached the zenith of their power and influence. Writers and journalists became the new “heroes of the time,” who believed in their higher calling to transform Russian society by making literature serve most importantly a social function. Even those writers who ruled over the hearts of the public often had to negotiate the “true message” of their works with other powerful readers, most importantly, with popular journalists, literary critics and the censor. This panel will explore literary and historical approaches to the problem of competing (mis)readings, questions of literary politics, and the phenomenon of the interpenetration of literature and journalism in the second half of the 19th century as a way to recreate an important context for the development of classical Russian literature.

 

Boris Akunin’s Global Engagements: Allusions to the World’s Classics and History Writing

Thu, November 17, 3:00 to 4:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Harding 

Brief Description

This panel explores creative output by Grigorii Chkhartishvili, a contemporary Russian writer who has mostly published under the pen name Boris Akunin. The paper by Elena Baraban examines the functions of Boris Akunin’s allusions and remakes of the novels by Dostoevsky (most notably, “Crime and Punishment”). Yekateria Cotey discusses the allusions to Charles Dickens’s “Great Expectations” and “Old Curiosity Shop” that appear in the novel Devyatny Spas, which Chkhartishvili published under the pen-name Anatoly Brusnikin. In the paper entitled “An Instructional Manual for the Nation: Boris Akunin’s History of the Russian State,” Stephen Norris examines Akunin’s recent popular history books. All three papers explore the ways in which Chkhartishvili re-contextualizes Russian literature and history in a global context through engaging a variety of postmodern writing techniques.

 

The Concept of Dignity: Russian and Cross-Cultural Perspectives

Thu, November 17, 5:00 to 6:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Lobby Level, Delaware B 

Brief Description

Protests that have been recently spreading around the globe as citizens advocate for dignity, make the concept of dignity a topical subject for academic study. It is used by the scholars that fit into the spectrum that starts from the liberal the human rights theorists and ends by ideologists of Al Qaeda and ISIS. The panel analyses the historical sources of dignity and its normative, legal and societal implications. The panel contributes to the discussion of dignity in the discipline of political theory and sheds light on how dignity is perceived in various cultures. Oleg Kharkhordin examines the perception of dignity in contemporary Russia. Xenia Cherkaev studies the interpretation of dignity by the judiciary and international human rights discourses. Boris (Rodin) Maslov explains the meaning of dostoinstvo (dignity) and analyses its sources in the discourse of XI-XVIII centuries.

 

FRIDAY 

 

Translation as Global Conversation Panel 6: National Literatures as World Literature in (Re)translation

Fri, November 18, 3:45 to 5:30pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, McKinley

Brief Description

This panel is part of the series of panels on translation: “Translation as Global Coverstion” organzied together with Julie Hansen, Uppsala U, Sweden.

The panel aims to investigate how canonical and non-canonical literatures are being mediated outside of their home countries as World Literature and what the role of translation is in this process. Different aspects of (re)translation, new translation and intermediary texts will be discussed following the recent debates on retranslation in the field of literary translation.

 

SATURDAY

 

Ecology and Russian Culture VI: (Un)Natural Catastrophe

Sat, November 19, 8:00 to 9:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Lobby Level, Park Tower Room 8216

Brief Description

This is the sixth of six panels, collectively titled “Ecology and Russian Culture,” which seek to foster interdisciplinary conversations about ecology and environment among specialists of Russian literature, history, and culture. Prompted by the eco-critical turn in the humanities broadly conceived, these panels address issues of nature, industry, ecology and the nonhuman from the nineteenth century to the contemporary period. Our panels include, but are not limited to, discussions of the following topics: representations of the animal and human-animal relations; representations of nature and natural philosophy; ecocritical visions of land and empire; the changing environment and ecological disasters; resource management, sustainability, and environmental activism; and the myriad ways in which genre, culture, history, and politics interact with ecology. This panel will address the shifting links and tensions between man, nature, and culture in prominent literary works of the 19th and 20th centuries.

 

Comparative Modernisms

Sat, November 19, 10:00 to 11:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Lobby Level, Park Tower Room 8205 

Brief Description

This panel proposes to examine aspects of the complex relationship between Russian and European Modernism, both from the perspective of 19th-c. roots as well as from that of the early 20th-c. flourishing of the respective movements. Discussion of Abramovitch, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva, and Bely alongside, respectively, Dickens, Joyce and Eliot.

 

Icons and the Arts

Sat, November 19, 1:45 to 3:30pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jefferson

Brief Description

This panel explores emerging ideas about the relationship among iconic practices, the composition of the icon, its representation in the visual and literary arts, and the meaning of this intersection. The dynamics among word, image and gesture are explored in the work of Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Valeriia Narbikova, Varlam Shalamov, Platonov, Bulgakov, Pasternak. The visual art of Narbikova, Kazimir Malevich and the Russian orthodox icon come into play as panelists consider issues such as visual perspective, the tactile origins of the icons, and the role of artist and reader/observer. The round table proposes a complex framework that examines ways in which traditional paradigms of image and perception are abolished, reinterpreted or perverted. On a broad cultural level, the group will consider the challenge to the privileged position of Logos established in western and post-Petrine Russian culture; the relationship between art and icons seems to reintegrate the verbal and the visual in a way that recalls more traditional understandings within Orthodox culture. Because of the exploratory nature of the discussion and the fact that many panelists are introducing new and highly interdisciplinary work, the round table will be the best forum for such a discussion.

 

Historical and Literary Intertexts in Late Nineteenth-Century Russian Fiction

Sat, November 19, 3:45 to 5:30pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Lobby Level, Park Tower Room 8212 

Brief Description

This panel examines the intertexts for Russian realism, reaching back in time and across national boundaries to find the roots of late 19th century Russian texts. The textual influences examined include imported French and British literature, widely circulated in mid-century society, and their respective narrative strategies, and historical contexts, particularly women’s revolutionary behavior. The works of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Korolenko, and Polonsky will be investigated alongside their intertexts.

 

SUNDAY

Senses and Inspiration: Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tsvetaeva

Sun, November 20, 8:00 to 9:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson

 

Family in the 19th-Century Realist Novel

Sun, November 20, 8:00 to 9:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Lobby Level, Park Tower Room 8212

Brief Description

This panel considers the meaning and value of family, and more broadly human connectedness, as they are represented in the 19th-century Russian realist novel. Questions to be considered include: How do Russian views of family contrast with European? Is the family the ideal form of social organization, and if not, what alternatives might exist? What makes for valuable or ethical familial relations? What other social meanings is family a metaphor for?

 

Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Nabokov: Aikhenvald and the Stakes of Criticism

Sun, November 20, 10:00 to 11:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson 

Brief Description

This panel seeks to bring needed attention to the critical practice and aesthetic theories of Yuli Aikhenvald, whose work was influential for Vladimir Nabokov’s artistic practice. Immensely popular just before Formalism took the stage, Aikhenvald’s idealist-inspired “immanent” criticism soon faded from public view. This panel explores the critic’s view of work in relation to Tolstoy; his views of Dostoevsky in relation to Nabokov’s early lectures on Brother’s Karamazov; and his theory of author’s and reader’s activity in light of Nabokov’s own engagement of these concepts.

 


Greta Matzner-Gore is an Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Southern California. A specialist in nineteenth-century Russian literature, her research interests include narrative theory, the ethics of reading, and the intersections between science and literature. She is also a founding member of the North American Dostoevsky Society’s Reader Advisory Board.

NADS/IDS logo design contest!

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The North American Dostoevsky Society and the International Dostoevsky Society are at work on a new website. In celebration, we are holding a logo design competition! Entries are due by Sunday, Sept 11, 2016 to NADS secretary/treasurer Brian Armstrong (BARMSTR3@augusta.edu). The winning logo will be used on our websites, social media, and letterhead.

Please see the letter below from our presidents Carol Apollonio and Vladimir Zakharov for more details:


819px-Vasily_Perov_-_Портрет_Ф.М.Достоевского_-_Google_Art_Project

Dear colleagues, 

Greetings from the North American Dostoevsky Society and the International Dostoevsky Society on the threshold of a new academic year! 

I write to let you know of plans to update our website. We have selected a designer and hope to have the site up and running by mid-autumn. This is an exciting step that will enable us to integrate our scholarly resources, outreach, and social media activities together in one location. 

We invite you to submit a design for a new logo for the site. The logo should be “joint but separable” for our two societies: NADS/IDS (North American Dostoevsky Society/International Dostoevsky Society); and, in Russian: МОД (Международное общество Достоевского).  

The winning entry will receive a free membership in IDS or NADS for the year 2017. 

Please submit entries to BARMSTR3@augusta.edu by Sunday, September 11. 

With best wishes, 

Carol Apollonio, President, North American Dostoevsky Society

Vladimir Zakharov, President, International Dostoevsky Society

A chat with Lonny Harrison on his new book about the Dostoevskian psyche

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Lonny Harrison is an incoming Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. His book, Archetypes from Underground: Notes on the Dostoevskian Self, was published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press in May 2016.

Harrison cover (f).inddQ. Archetypes from Underground gives its readers a new way of understanding Dostoevsky’s characters. Why do you think we need a new way of reading them?

There are so many ways of reading and understanding Dostoevsky. Like many others, I am interested in the psychology of his characters: the dreamers, criminals, murderers, thieves, the downtrodden and abused, visionary prophets and amoral nihilists, the list goes on… Dostoevsky’s great talent was his facility to dramatize the emotional and psychological lives of such a diverse cast along with their weighty psychic load. But I have always been unsatisfied with the clinical approach, that is, treating them like patients in therapy. From the Vienna school—Sigmund Freud, Otto Rank, and others—to more recent studies, there is a whole industry that thrives on analyzing Dostoevsky-as-psychologist. While that can be productive, I prefer the classic studies by Nikolai Berdiaev and Vyacheslav Ivanov, who treated Dostoevsky’s writing in mythic terms, which is more the way I see them. We should remember that Dostoevsky wrote, “They call me a psychologist: it is not true, I am only a realist in a higher sense,” and also, “My idealism is more real than their realism.” One of the things I do in this book is bring a new definition of Dostoevsky’s underground. In brief, the underground is the realm of the unconscious, or it can be “conscious inertia” as the Underground Man calls it. I write about the underground as a transformative principle. It is the nexus where the unconscious meets the conscious mind, causing friction that erupts into clusters of ideas, or patterns of action and behavior. These patterns that emerge are the archetypes themselves. So reading Dostoevsky from an archetypal perspective opens his works to a better understanding of the dynamic qualities of his characters and situations, all responding to the crisis of modernity and the problem of the modern self.

Q. What exactly do you mean by archetypes? What are Dostoevsky’s main archetypes?

Dostoevsky stated on several occasions that he was interested in creating character types. He thought Mr. Golyadkin in The Double was his first and most important underground type; later in the preface to Notes from Underground, he said, “types such as the creator of these notes not only could, but are bound to exist in our society.” Already in these works, however, it is apparent that he means something more than social-cultural types. Even in his earliest writing in the 1840s, that is what sets him apart from the Natural School. As a realist writer, he worked with social-cultural types, but as a “realist in a higher sense,” he worked in the realm of archetypes. From the underground type to the Karamazovan nature, Dostoevsky’s types are archetypes. In fact his final novel is the culmination of a whole cluster of archetypes he had been writing about all through his works. In the preface to The Brothers Karamazov, the hero Alyosha Karamazov is called an “odd man out”—an atypical hero, indeterminate, undefined—yet one who bears within himself the heart of the whole. Looking at the archetypes in characters like the Underground Man and Alyosha and his brothers brings to light the fact that, contrary to popular belief, archetypes are not fixed patterns, but very dynamic expressions of the ever- evolving psyche in its myriad forms. Dostoevsky’s stories are embodiments of the cycles of myth that code the experiences of the average human psyche in its dialectical phases of development. All archetypes have a positive and favorable side that points upward as well as a partly negative and unfavorable, partly chthonic side that points downward. Dostoevsky’s underground is the territory of this downward-pointing dimension, the subterranean, the unconscious. Its opposite is the upward-pointing process of transformation, numinous experience, and discovery of authentic self, which is also his terrain.

Q. Is this binary ever overcome?

Yes, in a sense it is, inasmuch as it works as a catalyst for the coincidence of opposites that produces transformation. We have to recognize that the idea of ego transcendence is so important in Dostoevsky. One doesn’t always think so when we read about the doubles, devils, criminals, etc., that are so frequently met. There are no perfect saints either, of course. Prince Myshkin is not the Christ figure some have made him out to be, and Alyosha confesses that he, too, possesses the earthy Karamazovan nature. But what sets them apart is that Dostoevsky makes them vehicles of the transformative process of the psyche. More than others, they overcome the qualities of egotism that bring chaos to the lives of most of the characters around them. You might ask, so what is ego transcendence, what does it look like? Well it is a variety of things; for one, it is the moment of epiphany, a sudden insight, or fleeting, ecstatic vision. These moments abound in Dostoevsky. The story “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man” is based on just such a transformative vision in a dream (although the lived experience in the dream seemed to occur over a span of eons). It also relates to the concepts of direct experience, spontaneity, and “living life” [zhivaia zhizn’], terms Dostoevsky frequently employed. It is probably encapsulated best in the sermons of Alyosha’s spiritual mentor, the elder Zosima, which give the experience of inner illumination of authentic self its most direct expression. Actually the passage where Zosima is lying in state and Alyosha, holding vigil, has his dream about the miracles at the Wedding at Cana, simply abounds with archetypal imagery, symbols of alchemy, and mystical transformation.

Q. What question(s) first inspired you to write this book?

I’ve been interested in the idea of doubles in Dostoevsky for a long time. It led me to the principle of the complementarity of opposites, which harkens back to ancient and medieval sources like Hermeticism, Neoplatonism, and Western esotericism. Berdiaev was the first to write about it in Dostoevsky. Following the thread, I found that Dostoevsky’s doubles, and many of his themes more broadly have a lot in common with the work of C.G. Jung. In fact they shared several common sources. Both Jung and Dostoevsky drew on German Romanticism, especially Schelling and Carus, for whom the psychology of the unconscious resonated deeply. I also became interested in the idea of the modern self, especially reading Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self, and A Genealogy of the Modern Self by Alina Clej. I was intrigued by the idea that the self as we know it is not a static thing, that it has an evolutionary heritage, and I saw Dostoevsky’s writing as occupying an important place in that heritage. I wanted to write about the notion of self in Dostoevsky in order to help in our understanding of the modern self in all its fascinating complexity. I was tantalized by the same questions that seem to tantalize and taunt his characters: What drives them? What do they believe? Who are they? Where is their soul? So I began to think to myself, what is the Dostoevskian self?

Q. Dostoevsky’s books are riddled with doubles. Can we be sure that a single Dostoevskian self exists?

That’s exactly it. There is no monological self in Dostoevsky. That’s why I see the Dostoevskian self as an archetypal patterning. The double is the principle of the unconscious mind meeting the conscious mind. It’s a catalyst for transformation. So I’m mostly interested in how Dostoevsky’s fiction signifies the archetypal source of self, residing in the unconscious. It has potential to inhibit self-awareness and cause personal destruction—in characters like Mr. Golyadkin, the Underground Man, or Stavrogin, but also to enhance self-knowledge and achieve self-integration, as Myshkin, Alyosha, or the Ridiculous Man begin to do.

Q. What were your favorite parts of this research?

I really enjoyed working on Chapter 3 “Dostoevsky’s Underground,” and Chapter 4 “Dostoevsky and the Shadow.” They get to the heart of the matter. They combine several of the most interesting ideas that I was researching, like Dostoevsky’s efforts to revise The Double in the 1860s, which he abandoned in favor of writing Notes from Underground. Moving from Dostoevsky’s underground to the notion of the shadow, I study his trademark archetype Karamazovshchina, which translates roughly as “Karamazovism.” I also examine feminine archetypes such as the Earth Mother and femme fatale for these chapters. Other topics are the epidemic of moral and psycho-ideological illness that Dostoevsky believed had infected the Russian intelligentsia, a travesty he paints with apocalyptic imagery, but also countered with the so-called “Russian idea”. The essential point regarding Dostoevsky’s later writing is its nation-centeredness. He locates the ideal of brotherhood and transcendent, unifying love, and harmony in the Russian narod—a subject he writes extensively about in Diary of a Writer. I also like some of the creepier imagery he uses to represent the underground, like spiders and insects, or the decomposition of consciousness that goes on in the post-mortem socializing of Dostoevsky’s macabre tale “Bobok”. I always have to laugh when I read it. As a literary study of the mind and consciousness, Dostoevsky is at his best, using the fantastic and grotesque to stage his “higher realism.” It just doesn’t get any better than that.

To learn more about Lonny Harrison’s research, check out his faculty profile page. You can also follow him on Twitter @lonnyharrison

This interview has been cross-posted on the UT Arlington liberal arts news website.


This interview is part of a new feature on The Bloggers Karamazov. If you have recently published work on Dostoevsky and would like to be interviewed on our blog, please let us know!

Upcoming Dostoevsky papers at Canadian Association of Slavists conference

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If you’re attending the big Canadian CongreSSH conference in Calgary next week, you may be interested in these Dostoevsky papers. They are all part of the Canadian Association of Slavists meeting May 30-June 1.

On May 30 at 10:45am is the panel, “Dostoevsky in the Classroom”

Chair: Irina Shilova, University of Calgary

Papers:

  • Joseph Schlegel, University of Toronto, “Intertextuality in the Classroom: Creative Engagement with Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.”
  • Kate Holland, University of Toronto, “Teaching Students How The Brothers Karamazov Works”
  • Katherine Bowers, University of British Columbia, “#TheDoubleEvent: Community Engagement Online and in the Dostoevsky Classroom”

Also at CAS: on the panel “Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature,” 1:15pm on June 1:

  • Baktygul Aliev, Williams College, “Fraudulent Other in Dostoevsky’s The Double

 


In future, we hope to feature more information about conferences, panels, papers, talks, and other events related to Dostoevsky Studies. See the Upcoming Conferences and Panels section of our web space for more details. If you have an update for the page, let us know! You can share it on our Facebook page, tweet it @ us, or use our Contact Form.

Crime & Punishment at 150 wins SSHRC Connection Grant

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Katherine Bowers (British Columbia) and Kate Holland (Toronto), together with a team of collaborators including Carol Apollonio (Duke), Brian Armstrong (Augusta), Mel Bach (Cambridge), Connor Doak (Bristol), and Ksenya Kiebuzinski (Toronto), have been awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Connection Grant for the conference and outreach program “Crime and Punishment at 150.” The program will celebrate 150 years of Dostoevsky’s novel with a series of events, both on location and online. These will include library exhibits at the Universities of Toronto and Cambridge, and online; a panel discussion at the University of Bristol; a conference at the University of British Columbia; a Twitter project @RodionTweets; and more. Stay tuned for more details coming soon!

If you are interested in attending and presenting at the Vancouver conference, the Call for Papers is online. Abstracts are still being accepted until May 15.

Congratulations to Katia, Kate, and their team!

Congratulations to Dr. Martinsen!

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Congratulations to Dr. Deborah Martinsen! Dr. Martinsen (Columbia University), who is the former president of the International Dostoevsky Society and a current member of the North American Dostoevsky Society Executive Board, was recently awarded the Donald Barton Johnson Prize for the best essay published in Nabokov Studies. The prize, which is awarded every two years, was for her article, “Lolita as a St. Petersburg Text.” The article is not yet available, but for those who would like to read some vintage Martinsen, check out “Shame and Punishment” from the fifth volume of Dostoevsky Studies (the new series). It begins with the question, “Why doesn’t Raskolnikov repent?” – perfect reading for the 150th anniversary of Crime and Punishment!

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