Presentación de Estudios Dostoievski

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Queridos amigos:

Constituye todo un honor el poder comunicaros el nacimiento de Estudios Dostoievski, revista en línea de periodicidad semestral, cuya finalidad es la publicación de trabajos de investigación en español relacionados con Fiódor Mijáilovich Dostoievski.

Por este motivo se invita, tanto a jóvenes investigadores como a expertos en la vida y la obra del escritor ruso, a la participación activa en nuestro proyecto.

El número fundacional de Estudios Dostoievski será de temática libre. Los originales, que deberán seguir las directrices para autores, se deberán enviar a la siguiente dirección: estudiosdostoievski@gmail.com

Estudios Dostoievski admite artículos, reseñas y traducciones de obras de Dostoievski o de artículos científicos sobre él redactados en otros idiomas.

La fecha límite para enviar originales es el 31 de enero de 2018.

Когда в 1971 году Дмитрий Гришин основал Международное общество Достоевского, его стремлением было объединение всех достоевсковедов в одной ассоциации.

Создавая Estudios Dostoievski (Исследования Достоевского) мы хотим внести свой вклад в этот союз, так как нашей целью является объединение испаноязычных ученых, изучающих жизнь и творчество Федора Михайловича Достоевского.

Estudios Dostoievski – онлайн-журнал периодичности в полгода, целью которого является публикация исследовательских работ о Достоевском на испанском языке. Вот почему мы приглашаем молодых исследователей и экспертов жизни и творчества русского писателя активно участвовать в нашем проекте.

Первый номер журнала посвящён свободной темe. Оригинальные тексты должны быть отправлены по адресу: estudiosdostoievski@gmail.com. В Estudios Dostoievski принимаются для публикации статьи, обзоры и переводы произведений Достоевского, а также научные исследовательские статьи, написанные на других языках.

Крайний срок отправки материалов – 31 января 2018 года.

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.

Envisioning Crime and Punishment: an Interview with Andrew O’Keefe

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Alexander Burry discusses film making, Dostoevsky, and a new Crime and Punishment film with Australian director Andrew O’Keefe of Apocalypse Films.

Introduction

Director Andrew O’Keefe’s Crime and Punishment (Apocalypse Films, 2015) is being screened this year at film festivals worldwide. His adaptation of Dostoevsky’s 1866 novel has already won “Best Crime Feature Film” at the 21st Indie Gathering in Cleveland and “Best Narrative Feature” at the International Independent Film Awards, and has also been nominated for several other awards. As an independent film that follows Dostoevsky’s basic plot while setting the novel in a contemporary western society, it offers a fresh and stimulating recontextualization of Crime and Punishment.

crime-and-punishment-film-2015

Questions

  1. What attracted you to Crime and Punishment, and more broadly, to Russian literature and culture?

I definitely would say that it was this particular story rather than Russian literature per se. I’m not a huge reader of Russian literature, other than some of Dostoevsky’s works. It really was the story, the characters and the personal appeal that the story had for me. It’s funny. It took me three attempts to actually get into Crime and Punishment and enjoy it. I’ve now read it perhaps five or six times. When I was younger, I tried twice. Then a few yeas ago I was going to visit St. Petersburg and felt obliged to try again. Thankfully, I did as I absolutely love it and read it twice on that trip. I knew by the time I’d come home I wanted to make the film. I empathized greatly with Raskolnikov’s plight. I too have felt his desperation at beginning half way through life and not having achieved what I had hoped. Being a filmmaker I had hoped to make four or five films by now. This is my second. I wouldn’t commit murder to fund a film but the desperation is there.

With regards to Russian culture, well, my wife Tuuli, who produced the film, is half-Finnish and our kids are Finnish citizens. St. Petersburg is right next door, so perhaps it’s destiny?

  1. What challenges did you face in adapting Dostoevsky’s novel? How did you decide which aspects to emphasize (or deemphasize) in the film?

It was a very, very tricky process and I had to work fast. Too fast probably but the timing of the shoot made it so. One of the main reasons that I decided to make this film was due to my relationship with two actors: Lee Mason (Raskolnikov) and Christopher Bunworth (Porfiry). I felt they would fit their roles perfectly. So that guided my approach. The part of the story that appealed most directly was the theory of the “extraordinary man” and Raskolnikov and Porfiry’s relationship embodies that subplot. The difficulties came, mostly, in placing the contemporary setting yet remaining faithful (to a point) to the novel. For example, Raskolnikov is almost forty years old yet, in the book, he is closer to twenty. I did not believe that, in this modern time, a twenty-year old could be desperate enough to commit premeditated murder to test a theory and to pay their university fees. In the novel Raskolnikov had reached almost half the life expectancy for a male in St. Petersburg in 1866. The equivalent would make him forty, here and now.

Another deciding factor was the political structure of Australia. So much of the plot of the novel depends on the class system, the poverty, and the bureaucratic officialdom being what it is. So, a lot of that had to be left aside, which was fortunate, as that also allowed me to remove many of those characters. But, I tried to keep a taste of them.

  1. Your first feature film, The Independent (2007), also starred Lee Mason, though in a very different role. What has your experience working with him been like over the years? What makes him well suited to the role of Raskolnikov?

Yes, Lee and I have worked a lot together. I love that fact and it gave me the confidence to attempt this adaptation. I’m not naïve enough to think that there wouldn’t be some kind of backlash for messing with a Dostoevsky novel! And, in small ways, there has been. But none of it has questioned Lee’s performance. That was the thing I knew from the start – he would excel in the role, give it the seriousness that it required, and leave his blood on the floor. Because I’ve worked with him so much, it actually freed me up to work more with the other actors. That’s the relationship we have. I trust Lee’s dramatic instincts and he trusts mine. So, aside from really early discussions before we started shooting, we didn’t talk character all that much during the shoot. I knew the central role was in good hands. I can only know that because I know him as a person so well. I know his temperament. I know his feelings about his family. I know what makes him happy, sad, angry… We’re very good friends after all this work we’ve done.

  1. Making an independent film of a lengthy novel with so many characters can be challenging budget-wise. But did producing it outside the major studio system offer some advantages as well, for instance in terms of expressing your personal vision of the novel? Do you think Crime and Punishment in particular lends itself well to independent production?

To be truthful, I now feel that the film was too ambitious for the money that we had. It is a big book. I did have some big ideas. Poverty, for example, is ironically a very expensive thing to put on screen when filming in and around a University campus. We lacked the budget for that. But, the lack of budget meant total freedom in other ways and that was terrific. The key people involved (cinematographer, production designer, composer etc.) could really take risks and express themselves – myself included. I was keen to set the film around a university as it’s the world I know. The novel downplays this element as Raskolnikov has already left, but I could play it up as I had access to a university! I was in a unique position there. The lack of money also dragged out the post-production path. The film took a very long time to finish. The original score, which is brilliant, took Amy almost a year to complete as she had to work around her paid composing work. The editing took me six months as I was working too. So, there were constraints but, overall, the great thing about having no money was that we surrounded ourselves with a community of people who loved Dostoevsky and we all had that in common. The book was the reason that people gave up months, if not years, of their lives.

  1. Much of the film was shot at the Parkville and Victorian Arts College campuses of the University of Melbourne. How would you describe your experience shooting at the university, and working with the staff and facilities?

Well, I am a full-time staff member at the Victorian College of the Arts film school. I am also currently doing a PhD on the Parkville campus. I’ve worked at Melbourne University for almost ten years so I knew all the locations very well. I knew the time of year that we could access buildings without hindering students. Almost every building in the film is on the University campus. There are only a few exceptions. Even Raskolnikov’s room is a set we built in the studio at my film school. Most of the crew were current students of recent graduates of the film school. Most of the film equipment was given in-kind by the film school. I knew all the security people, many by name. My university email address opened a lot of doors. So, the University was incredibly supportive of the entire endeavor. I really can’t say enough.

Aside from that, Dostoevsky opened a lot of doors too! We are the only film crew to have been allowed to shoot at Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Dean of the church is a great Dostoevsky lover, so he shut down the grounds for three hours for us to film. He locked out the tourists! Also, the National Gallery of Victoria allowed us to film their exterior “Napoleon” artwork because of Dostoevsky. Also, we managed to crowdfund $20,000, a lot from people we didn’t know but because of the book.

Between the University of Melbourne and Dostoevsky’s name, the film was possible.

  1. Your title sequence mentions the extremely high costs of an education at the University of Melbourne today. This is not only a very thought-provoking way of introducing Raskolnikov and his murder plot, but also directs the viewer to consider the novel within a contemporary context. What resonance do you see between nineteenth-century Russia and present-day Australia, and between St. Petersburg and Melbourne?

Well, to be clear, it’s not actually meant to be set at the University of Melbourne. We filmed there but it’s meant to be an unnamed, non-descript city in an uncertain time period. People have cars but no televisions. There are no mobile phones. The currency is Roubles. We avoided many of the recognizable Melbourne landmarks too. So, it’s a general Western setting.

But, yes, I did see a modern dilemma reflected in the book. In Australia, for the time being, we have a very good university payment system called “HECS”. Basically, the government pays your university fees and when you graduate and get a job, you start paying back as a percentage of tax. That system is under threat from both sides of government here looking at deregulation. The logical, pessimistic, extension of that idea is that knowledge is power and, therefore, people will commit violence to gain power. This means people may become desperate enough to commit violence to pay for their education. This was the way I wanted to frame the film as it is possibly the most important dilemma in the world today, outside basic living conditions. Access to education can change everything: health, happiness, wealth, future. Everything. I think that’s the most important thing to be taken from Dostoevsky’s novel.


Alexander Burry is an Associate Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at The Ohio State University. He is the author of Multi-Mediated Dostoevsky: Transposing Novels into Opera, Film, and Drama (2011) and is currently working on a book on Don Juan in Russian culture.

Andrew O’Keefe is a filmmaker from Melbourne, Australia. With Tuuli Forward he is a director of Apocalypse Films. You can see the trailer for his 2015 film Crime and Punishment here: https://vimeo.com/113887597.

This interview appears as part of #cp150, a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Dostoevsky’s Crime and PunishmentCrime and Punishment (Apocalypse Films, 2015) will be screened at the #cp150 conference in Vancouver, Canada on Oct 20, 2016. 

Ivan Karamazov reviews Crime and Punishment

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by Ivan Karamazov, with help from Brian Armstrong

For my thirtieth birthday, my brother gave me a novel called Crime and Punishment by a well-known Russian author. The novel was published back in 1866, but I was unaware of it at the time; that was an unusually difficult year for me. I’d since heard of it, but I’d never gotten around to reading it. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve not even touched my copy of War and Peace yet!

Those of you who are aware of my family history, however, can likely ascertain why I quickly read my gift. I’d heard that I bear some similarities to the central character, and that while the novel was being serialized in The Russian Messenger, some of its most important themes were being played out in my own life. And while I cannot but acknowledge those similarities, I must admit that I was unimpressed with the young man.

First, given that everyone who is anyone has already read the novel, I hope you won’t think me a scoundrel if I openly discuss the fact that the central character, Raskolnikov, murdered a couple of people and stole from them and then eventually – and rather pathetically – confessed first to a woman whom he barely knew and then to the authorities. There is supposedly a great mystery as to why he did it, but, honestly, I believe that the former gambler Svidrigailov summed up the central character and his motivations quite well: he sought to rob the older sister, and he did it in order to see if he was an exceptional “man of genius.”

The idea of the exceptional person of genius is part of a theory he had, in which people are divided into two groups according to a law of nature: the mere “material” and those who, due “to their lofty status, are outside the law, and not only that, who themselves write the law for the others – for the material, I mean . . . the rubbish” (462). Svidrigailov rightly notes that there’s nothing really special about this theory. He also rightly notes that what follows from Raskolnikov’s criminal act is simply a matter of his being “greatly pained” by the thought this this lofty status was beyond him. In other words, “What could be more demeaning for a young man with a high opinion of himself, especially in our day and age … ?’ (462) Apparently there is nothing more demeaning.

raskolnikov 3But that’s not the end of the story. It’s not just that this young man, with his confusions and his inflated sense of himself, committed some mundane crimes. We’re also supposed to believe that a process occurred – especially with the young woman whom he barely knew – that led to his redemption, and we’re told by the narrator that some great future deed awaits him. I’m aware that there is debate over how “true” this process and this future deed is to “reality” – meaning to psychological reality, since the book is, of course, a fiction made up by the author (a fact that many readers seem to forget!). There is also debate over whether this process and future deed work from an aesthetic perspective. In my opinion, it is true to reality and it is done beautifully. I was ready to weep for joy. Except…

Except that I couldn’t help but wonder: at what cost did this young man’s redemption come? The death of two innocent women. Yes, yes: perhaps the pawnbroker really did deserve to die. And even if she didn’t deserve to die, it seems clear that the young man does not feel remorse for having killed her. Rather, it’s the second murder, which even the narrator rarely mentions, that seems to eat away at the young man. And I see that this second murder is essential: the young man hardly ever mentions her, but the guilt he seems to feel is what converts his act into something redemptive.

But why should I approve of such redemption? Does the author mean to say that we should approve of young men killing innocent strangers (and females in particular) in order to redeem these men? That seems a steep cost to pay. Too steep. And what of the innocent young woman who is sacrificed so horribly in this mechanism of grace? It is right or just that her life is the cost of his ticket to redemption?

But my thoughts on this issue are likely well-known. Year in and year out, I have these same sorts of conversations with those around me (and often with the same people). My interlocutors are constantly pointing out flaws in my logic and my rhetoric and my choice of facts and figures of speech and examples. And I’m constantly being accused of irony and atheism, so that the points I make are fully misunderstood. But I’ll say it again: I believe in God and in the immortality of the soul and in Heaven and Hell. And I still refuse my ticket.


Brian Armstrong is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Augusta University. He works on the intersection of philosophy and literature, and his current project focuses on the philosophical implications of Dostoevsky’s fiction. He masterminded @YakovGolyadkin last fall during #TheDoubleEvent. You can find him on Twitter under the handle @wittstrong.

This post appears as part of the #CP150 project. For more information about the project, click here.

The Four Raskolnikovs and the Confessional Dream

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by Amy D. Ronner

I am a law professor who teaches criminal procedure, a course which covers the constitutional protections for those accused of or charged with crimes. One of the burning questions in the text books is why do so many suspects waive their Miranda rights and confess? Typical conjectures blame the overbearing and devious tactics of law enforcement or the suspects’ hubristic confidence in their own skill at talking their way out of trouble. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s perspective in Crime and Punishment is far more astute. In essence, there are four Raskolnikovs and they quadriphonically divulge confessional truth.

At least unconsciously, Raskolnikov knows what he needs to sire his own deliverance. Shortly before the crime, Raskolnikov experiences what has become famous in world literature – – his dream of the suffering horse. Dostoevsky underscores the momentousness of “dreams, morbid dreams, [that] always live long in the memory and have a powerful effect on disturbed and already excited organisms.”[1] It is this “palpable and vivid” dream that predicts the future and prescribes the cure (Pt. 1, Ch. 5: 51).

In the dream, Raskolnikov is a boy visiting the countryside with his father and passing a tavern, loaded with drunken partyers. Mikolka, the owner of a large wagon, hitched to a skinny old horse, invites the rowdies to pile in and go for a ride. Although it is obvious that the horse cannot drag the overloaded wagon, Mikolka savagely beats the horse to a pulp. The incident turns into a self-defeating vicious cycle: the more Mikolka delivers lashes, the less the horse can budge and the less the horse can budge, the more the enraged Mikolka delivers the lashes. When spectators voice objections, Mikolka yells, “I’ll do what I like.” According to Mikolka, the mare is his “property,” which after being senselessly bludgeoned on the spine, “sighs heavily” and expires (Pt. 1, Ch. 5:54, 55).

Child Raskolnikov, traumatized and dashing out from the crowd, makes a futile attempt to save the horse. Eventually, he lunges at the murderer:

He yells and squeezes his way through the crowd to the sorrel, throws his arms around     her dead bloodied muzzle and kisses her, kisses her on her eyes, her lips. . . Then he        suddenly jumps up and charges at Mikolka with his little fists. At that very moment his father, who’s been chasing after him in vain, finally grabs him and hauls him out of the crowd (Pt. 1, Ch. 5: 55).

When Raskolnikov awakens, he instantly annexes his dream to the very murder he has been contemplating:

“My God!” he exclaimed. “Will I really – – I mean, really – – actually take an axe, start bashing her on the head, smash her skull to pieces? . . . Will I really slip in sticky, warm        blood, force the lock, steal, tremble, hide, all soaked in blood. . . axe in hand? . . . Lord,will I really?” (Pt. 1, Ch. 5: 56).

Psychoanalyst Louis Breger points out that in Raskolnikov’s “own interpretation he sees himself as Mikolka, the dream portraying his plan to kill the aged and useless old pawnbroker.”[2] While the dream does mirror the atrocity that Raskolnikov is about to commit, it also prefigures regeneration and prescribes what he needs to do to even begin to get there.

Crime and Punishment back cover: the horse dream

There are four Raskolnikovs in this dream: one, the Mikolka-Raskolnikov who seeks to assert power over and ownership of others through the irrational extinguishment of human life; two, the mare-Raskolnikov who feels helplessly trapped and beaten down; three, the boy-Raskolnikov, who compassionately leaps forth to try to spare a life; and four, the father-Raskolnikov, who swoops in to squelch the child’s heartfelt, heroic benevolence.

Here the most important Raskolnikov in the quadrille is, of course, the boy, who speaks, comes forth, takes responsibility, and tries (albeit in futility) to right a wrong. He is, after all, the antidote to a Mikolka-esque murderous tantrum, and he is, like the spirit of confession, a courageous personification of what can potentially become best in human nature. In an allusion to Nekrasov’s poem “Till Twilight” (Do sumerek, 1859), the boy kisses the mare “on the eyes” and “on the lips,” compassionate acts which extol both vision and speech as faculties that can assist heartfelt redemption (Pt. 1, Ch. 5:55). As Deborah Martinsen has pointed out in her superb blog (“Dostoevsky and Raskolnikov’s ‘New Word’”), it “matters which ‘word’ we follow.” In essence, Raskolnikov’s soul and psyche desperately need to hear and heed this little boy’s word and thus, let him “squeeze[] his way” out (Pt. 1, Ch. 5:55). The dream tells Raskolnikov, even before he has committed the offense, that what he must do to just begin to change his life is to come forth, confront that internecine Mikolka, and confess.

The dream is conterminously prophetic because it is the fourth Raskolnikov, the suppressive patriarch, who prevails by banishing the boy, by rendering him invisible, by silencing the inception of the symbolic confession, and by curtailing the heartfelt outburst. It is only after the dream-father has trumped the dream-boy that Raskolnikov opens his eyes to the realization that he is heading down the Mikolka path and might actually “take an axe” to bring his horrific project to fruition. The dream, however, is even more of a prescription than it is prognostication: it admonishes Raskolnikov to confront his own Mikolka-like instincts, to come clean, to ultimately “hug the knees” of and accept love (Epilogue, Ch. 2: 516). As such, even before he bashes Alyona Ivanovna over the head, Raskolnikov craves confession and deep inside desperately wants to join the human race.

Notes:

[1] Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, trans. Oliver Ready (New York: Penguin Books, 2014): 51. Hereinafter, I will include the Part and Chapter number, as well as the page number from the Ready translation, in parentheses in the text.

[2] Louis Breger, Dostoevsky: The Author as Psychoanalyst (New York: New York University Press, 1989); 31.


Amy D. Ronner, who holds both a law degree and an M.A. and Ph.D in literature, is a Professor of Law at St. Thomas University School of Law, where she teaches Constitutional Law, Wills and Trusts, Sexual Identity and the Law, and Criminal Procedure. She is the author of five books, including Dostoevsky and the Law (2015) and Law, Literature, and Therapeutic Jurisprudence (2010). This blog is a rough adaptation of a section of her article, “Dostoevsky and the Therapeutic Jurisprudence Confession,” which appeared in The John Marshall Law Review, 40 (2006): 41.

The image that accompanies this post is from the back cover of the US deluxe edition of Oliver Ready’s translation of Crime and Punishment, available from Penguin Books. 

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

Finding Raskolnikov on the Dialogic Blog Trail

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by Robin Feuer Miller

A young man succumbs to the unfinished ideas in the air; viruses travel through the world in the same way as ideas; words are germs; infections spread in the stifling urban heat; the dirty water cannot cleanse body or soul but instead becomes a breeding ground for more viruses of all kinds. So far I am the oldest person to volunteer to contribute to this blog—a space already positively radiant with postings from some of the most creative Dostoevsky scholars in the world—I am, moreover, even at my advanced age, a Twitter virgin, a Snapchat ignoramus, and an Instagram idiot. But it is abundantly clear that Dostoevsky would hungrily pursue all these forms of communication; he would be a shameless multi-tasker, and he would surely relish reading the postings on “The Bloggers Karamazov.”

Sitting down to read them from top to bottom, thus taking the most recent and reading back to the first—in a weird kind of inverse dialogue—has made Crime and Punishment come disturbingly alive in new ways. The novel has wiggled out of its words on the page and literally entered the air, permeating anew the readers of these blogs; we are re-infected and discover that we have not built up any immunities to the contagion this work can engender. Frankly, @RodionTweets and the subsequent posts are more immediate and effective in conveying the essence of the novel than any visual representations of it, which, however exciting to watch, broadcast a more unified voice than the odd and compelling multi-voiced chorus that sounds out from these virtual collections.

Velký_dialog_(1966),_laminát,_drát,_textil,_lak,_145x190x83_cm

Velky dialog (1966) by Karel Nepraš

In the virtual space allotted to me here, let me follow the backwards dialogic trail of these Crime and Punishment posts so far, beginning (that is ending) with Robert L. Belknap (the recently deceased and beloved teacher of many of us) and ending (that is beginning) with Katia Bowers, to whom—along with Kate Holland, Brian Armstrong, Sarah Hudspith,Sarah J. Young, Jennifer L. Wilson, and Kristina McGuirk—we and Dostoevsky owe so much. You have collectively reinvigorated (or re-infected) us; the hot summer air of those weeks in St. Petersburg one hundred and fifty years ago are reincarnated in the sweltering summer of 2016 in locales all over the map.

Through the keen lens of Deborah Martinsen’s notes and recollections of Bob Belknap we learn that Bob considered Razumikhin to be “racy, snappy, generous, arrogant, fun” and not unlike Dostoevsky himself. (These adjectives evoke Bob pretty well too.) Both Dostoevsky and his character were given to translations: Dostoevsky’s first work was a rough translation of Balzac’s Eugenie Grandet, and Razumikhin proposes to Raskolnikov that they translate part of Rousseau’s Confessions—a work important to Balzac and with which Dostoevsky polemicized for most of his life, especially within the pages of our novel at hand. Bob, in his posthumous book, Plots, considers the meaning of translation in its broadest possible sense:

Plot summaries deserve serious theoretical attention. . . Like a translation, a plot summary tries to represent a text, a set of black marks on a page . . . Indeed, some argue that the summary of a book is the plot of the book, with all the burden of significance and power that implies; others argue that the only proper summary of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is the book itself, that summary is impossible (p. 7).

The same argument is frequently made about translation.

Deborah identifies the essence of what made Bob such a great classroom teacher: “He did not tell us or show us what to think, he made us think by making us experience the texts he was teaching.” In this too, Bob reflects the writer to whom he devoted most of his scholarly life. Of all Dostoevsky’s works it is perhaps Crime and Punishment which most irresistibly, most inexorably draws its readers into its vortex. All our blogs so far attest to this fact in one way or another. How many of you, like me, have had a student say that reading the novel allowed him to feel what it was like (or, in one frightening case, to want) to commit murder? We teachers of Dostoevsky’s works frequently find ourselves engaged in startling, atypical classroom discussions when his words are “in play.”

Deborah tackles Dostoevsky’s frequent use of the phrase “new word”, highlighting Porfiry’s chilling insight that Raskolnikov’s “new word” –that which “truly belongs to you alone, to my horror—is that, in the end, you permit bloodshed as a matter of conscience, and if you’ll excuse me, you’re actually quite fanatical about it.” She highlights Porfiry’s insight, but I, and perhaps others of you, have consistently glided over it, even despite repeated readings of the novel. How does Dostoevsky achieve these repeated instances of having his readers fail to notice the most significant details? Or, rather, we each notice our own significant details. Like Raskolnikov, who expresses his fear of them from the outset, we are undone by “the trifles” looming unseen before us.

IMG_2155

My  tiny edition of Crime and Punishment (RFM)

When Kristina McGuirk describes how twitter provides Raskolnikov a medium for talking to himself, she takes us back full circle, as do a number of the other bloggers, to Dostoevsky’s original conception of narrating his novel in the first person. The tweets she and others forge are bone-chilling, reducing the novel to a distilled new essence Dostoevsky would have savored. I am reminded of a tiny edition (summary really—with black and white drawings; image to the right) that I possess of Crime and Punishment: an edition handed out to soldiers in World War II. It slips into the front pocket of any shirt and is barely noticeable. Katia Bowers describes how she envisioned creating an ending for the twitterized version of the novel to rival another “amazing” twitter account: @MayorEmanuel. Had Dostoevsky been writing his Diary of a Writer today, we can be sure his insights, like Katia’s, would be littered with websites, twitter hashtags, and other such forays into the virtual air. Katia, like Kristina, in trying to tweet Raskolnikov, comes up against narrative truths: “it’s difficult to build narrative force without access to the 3rd person narrator’s tools and tricks.” These tweets allow in the inner experience of [re]creating Dostoevsky’s character.

And something even more significant happens: Katia tells us, as Rodion’s tweets “go out, they mingle with other tweets in readers’ feeds, become lost, are retweeted out of chronology.” A living, vibrating air-born hybrid is created that changes by the moment and becomes eerily close to some kind of . . . dare one say it . . . collective consciousness. Jennifer Wilson’s blog seems to build on Katia’s, though of course, in this inverted dialogue, it actually precedes it chronologically. She describes how poverty fractures the self, and thus Dostoevsky’s “characters rarely use words to say what they mean, but rather to express how they would like to be understood.” Her analysis of “pauper’s pride” shows us how powerfully social contexts are woven inextricably into intimate individual perception. She “shows” us this in a concrete way, because she is describing the challenge of attempting to tweet the pain of the irritating yet tragic Katerina Ivanovna. We are thus boldly and actually confronted by the myriad obstacles that Dostoevsky himself “stepped over” in creating his novel.

Brian Armstrong’s ruminations about “higher twitter realism” seem to encapsulate the experiences others have described above, but of course his post too comes before theirs. Inspired by Carol Apollonio’s address at the International Dostoevsky Symposium earlier this summer, Brian asks, “How do we know that the conversation in Porfiry’s office happens just as the narrator reports?” Or, as Carol asked more broadly in her presentation, “What happened?” The twitter modality seems to highlight these broadly ontological considerations, coaxing them out of the dark corners we generally choose not to discuss with any text.

Kate Holland’s post offers both a trenchant analysis of the challenges of tweeting Part III of the novel as well as some significant theoretical insights into the genre of twitter (if we may call it a genre) more generally.   She describes the project as requiring three different modes of translation: direct transcription, transposition of narrative voice, and creative manipulation of the story by the actual “addition of thoughts which might be conceivable ascribed to Raskolnikov.” For her—for all of us—the hardest part “to get used to was adaptation, or ‘filling in’ gaps which the text intentionally leaves opaque.” What is this but a bold, new, stark way of experiencing the novel and testing out its ideas in a way far more personal than what we do in more traditional critical writing, which is itself, like summary, a form of translation?

Our blog has the title “The Bloggers Karamazov.” How would one tweet that novel? How would we deal with its time (a narrator-chronicler in the present, events, presented somewhat out of chronology, 13 years previously in August, November), its multiplicity of primary characters, its preoccupation with evidence?   Sarah J. Young describes how these virtual projects, whether digitally mapping St. Petersburg or tweeting Raskolnikov, “force us towards completeness and to following our reading to its logical limit.” She points out that traditional forms of interpretation allow us to be less consistent and, basically, more tentative in our conclusions. So the result of this process has been for her, and for other tweeters of Raskolnikov, “closer readings” than they have ever done before. The tweets en masse have forged a new, virtual Raskolnikov, a complex, self-contradictory composite formed by all who participated. Taken as a whole, they constitute Raskolnikov’s actual words and perceptions made “new.”

Sarah Hudspith candidly expressed her excitement that the tweeting project offered her the chance to (re)write part of a novel with which she had had a life-long love affair. Her insight takes reading and writing about what we read to a whole new level. One of my favorite courses that I offer is entitled, “Chekhov’s Stories on Stage.” Students have an opportunity to recast Chekhov’s stories into a dramatic form. But the creation of Raskolnikov’s tweets offers an even more dramatic, intimate challenge and suggests that we would do well, as teachers, to engage our students in similar activities. They would then, in Belknap-fashion, experience the novel more fully. And the responses to it modelled through such a project come close to the inner heart of why we read in the first place and what reading can teach us both as individuals and as members of society.


Robin Feuer Miller is Edytha Macy Gross Professor of Humanities and Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature at Brandeis University. Her most recent books include Dostoevsky’s Unfinished Journey (2007) and The Brothers Karamazov: The Worlds of the Novel (2008).

On teaching Crime and Punishment

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by Robert Belknap, with introduction by Deborah A. Martinsen

Introduction

Bob Belknap was not only one of the world’s greatest Dostoevsky scholars, but also one of the world’s greatest teachers. He held that while some writers tell us what happen and some show us what happen, the Russians make us experience what happened. And that’s what Belknap did in the classroom. He did not tell us or show us what to think, he made us think by making us experience the texts he was teaching. For instance, he argued that Dostoevsky works physically upon us: when Raskolnikov is behind the pawnbroker’s door as Koch and his companion knock on it, he is holding his breath. And so are we. As Belknap points out, Dostoevsky makes us accessories after the fact: we want his axe-murderer to get away.

robertbelknap_hildehoogenboom_crop2

                               Robert L. Belknap, photo by Hilde Hoogenboom

When talking to colleagues who were teaching Crime and Punishment in Columbia’s great books course, Literature Humanities, Belknap always stressed two things: Dostoevsky was not Raskolnikov (he was more like Razumikhin) and Dostoevsky was an extraordinary literary craftsman, who studied the trade at the feet of the best yet continued to innovate. Belknap’s chapter on Dostoevsky’s omnivorous reading in The Genesis of “The Brothers Karamazov” is itself a fun read. He stresses that Dostoevsky read everything from the classics to the latest best sellers. He loved Homer, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Schiller, and Pushkin (among many, many others), avidly read Ann Radcliffe and the Gothic novelists, and introduced Edgar Allan Poe to the Russian reading public.

Belknap held that Crime and Punishment was a novel about rehearsals: Book I is a rehearsal for the murder (think of the dream of the horse) and the next five books are rehearsals for confession (make your own list!). He held that Porfiry had a theory of crime: it is a disease with two symptoms – the crime itself and the need to get caught. Raskolnikov’s behavior betrays his guilt: he revisits the scene of the crime, ostentatiously throws money around, and talks as though he were guilty.

At the XVI International Dostoevsky Symposium in Granada this year, our Russian colleagues argued about whether or not Raskolnikov truly repents by the end of the novel. Belknap had an answer: Raskolnikov’s dream in the Epilogue is a magnificent repentance. His subconscious recognizes that nihilism and Napoleonism are diseases of individualism and pride.

The following post comes from April 2010, the last year Belknap taught Crime and Punishment as part of Columbia’s Core Curriculum. For more vintage Belknap on the novel, see his posthumously published masterpiece Plots (2016).

Crime and Punishment discussion for Lit Hum staff, April 5, 2010

Dostoevsky was very much a part of European culture, wrote with immense admiration about Homer, Dante, and especially Don Quixote, learned his trade from Balzac, Dickens, Poe, and many others, and considered Les Misérables a better novel than Crime and Punishment, though he considered Razumikhin and Dunia a better pair of lovers than Cosette and Marius.

That is to say, he was a pro, and not a mysterious Asian phenomenon, or an alienated misfit. If he resembled any character in Crime and Punishment, it was Razumikhin, racy, snappy, generous, arrogant, fun. Here’s a letter he wrote to his brother at the same age:

As to translations, I’m not sure whether I’ll fuss around all summer trying to get one. We had an idiot in Petersburg, Furmann, (He’s abroad right now) and he receives 20,000 a year from translations alone! If you could get just one year provided for, you should definitely come. You’re young; you could even make a career in lit. They’re all doing that now. In ten years, you could forget about translations.

Dostoevsky was a professional journalist as well as a writer of fiction. He edited four important journals and was centrally involved in the political and ideological controversies of the 1840s, 60s, and 70s. The nihilism of Turgenev’s Bazarov (Fathers and Children) had become the central concern of the intellectual world. It was not the belief in nothing, as Bazarov had suggested, but the adherence to a fixed list of doctrines – atheism, scientism, socialism, feminism, sometimes self-interest, and a few others – over against the three official doctrines of the government – Orthodox Christianity, Official Nationalism, and the Sovereignty of the Tsar.

Raskolnikov is infected with this disease of nihilism. His conscious being is drawn to the mathematical, the calculating, the economic, the burdensome, the suicidal, the social, the scientific, the cynical, the murderous doctrines about great men that had appeared in Napoleon III’s Life of Julius Caesar. His unconscious impulses remain generous, kind, liberating, and involved with confession, resurrection, and faith.

This split between the conscious calculations and the unconscious impulses lets Raskolnikov shift, usually suddenly, between the two identities. He confesses his crime, silently, horribly, to Sonia, and then suddenly shifts to the social benefit that flows from it, saying he has only killed a vicious insect. He gives money to the Marmeladovs, to the girl wandering on the boulevard, and he regrets it for socially rational reasons in each case.

After the dream of the horse, he wakes liberated from the burden of the murderous plan, but returns to that plan because he happens to learn that it is possible. This weird reversal of intent comes not from what he learns, but from the way he learns it – by coincidence. This coincidence reaches his sense of superstition, and Dostoevsky links superstition with the scientific sense of total control that emerges at the end of the novel in the dream of the plague that makes the madmen feel supremely sane.


Robert Belknap (1929-2014) was a Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and a former Dean of Columbia University. His work on Dostoevsky includes the books The Structure of “The Brothers Karamazov” (1989), Genesis of “The Brothers Karamazov”: The Aesthetics, Ideology, and Psychology of Making a Text (1990), and Plots (2016). 

We are grateful to Deborah Martinsen for giving us access to her notes from Professor Belknap’s discussion of teaching Crime and Punishment in 2010 as well as her introduction to this piece. Deborah Martinsen is Associate Dean of Alumni Education and Adj. Associate Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. 

The photograph of Robert L. Belknap was taken at a conference held in his honor in February 2010 and appears with the kind permission of the photographer, Hilde Hoogenboom, Associate Professor of Russian at Arizona State University.

This post appears as part of the #CP150 project. For more information about the project, click here.

 

Dostoevsky and Raskolnikov’s “New Word”

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by Deborah A. Martinsen

As we all read and reread, blog, twitterize, and discuss Crime and Punishment in this 150th anniversary of its publication year, I have been struck yet again by the novel’s focus on ethics, its tight structure, and how the two work together. To illustrate this observation, I will cite three passages – from the novel’s beginning, middle, and end.

Passage one (Pt 1): On the novel’s first page, Raskolnikov wonders “what do people fear most? A new step, a new word of their own.” The narrator thus signals that Raskolnikov prizes originality, especially theory. The surrounding paragraph makes it clear that he is anxious about the gap between theory and action. (Attentive readers will note that in the course of the first page, the narrator moves from an outsider omniscient stance, to partial insider status using free indirect discourse – paraphrasing Raskolnikov’s thoughts, to full insider status using direct discourse to quote Raskolnikov’s thoughts verbatim in this passage.)

Ernst-Neizvestnyi

One of Ernst Neizvestnyi’s illustrations for Crime and Punishment

Passage two (Part 3, Ch 5): As Raskolnikov discusses his article on crime with Porfiry and Razumikhin, he claims that only extraordinary people have the gift or talent to utter “a new word.” Five pages later, Porfiry asks him: “when you were composing that little article of yours, well, it’s simply inconceivable – heh, heh! – that you didn’t also think of yourself as being at least a teeny bit ‘extraordinary’ as well, as also having a new word to utter, in your understanding of those terms…Wouldn’t you say, sir?” Porfiry thus voices our suspicion, putting another motive for murder on the table. In between these two fragments of the conversation, Razumikhin identifies Raskolnikov’s new word, his contribution to a current debate on natural law: “what is truly original about it all – and truly belongs to you alone, to my horror – is that, in the end, you permit bloodshed as a matter of conscience, and, if you’ll excuse me, you’re actually quite fanatical about it… This, then, must be the main idea of your article. But the permission to shed blood as a matter of conscience, well…it’s more terrifying, to my mind, than any official permission, any legal permission…” Raskolnikov notes that the idea is “only hinted at,” but now we know that a new word signifies a theory, so we have another theoretical justification for the crime.

Dostoevsky undercuts Raskolnikov’s preoccupation with originality (the “new word”) in a number of ways. First, Raskolnikov himself is a literary cliché: a young man from the provinces who comes to the big city and lives off his family. Second, in Part 1 (Ch 6), readers see that the “strange idea” in Raskolnikov’s head (killing the old pawnbroker and using her money for social good) is actually a commonplace discussed in taverns! Finally, as many of Dostoevsky’s readers would have known, much of Raskolnikov’s theory about extraordinary people comes right out of Louis Napoleon’s History of Julius Caesar, an 1865 literary sensation that was a veiled apology for himself and his uncle.

Passage 3 (Epilogue, Pt 2): As Raskolnikov mechanically takes the Gospels out from under his pillow, he realizes that he had asked Sonya to bring it to him, but he had not even opened it yet: “Nor did he open it now, but a thought flashed in him: ‘Can her convictions not be my convictions now? Her feelings, her aspirations, at least…’”

In his inimitable fashion, Dostoevsky has moved the conversation from abstract theory – “a new word” – to incarnated Gospel truth (“In the beginning was the Word,” John 1.1). Moreover, Dostoevsky debunks the utilitarian calculus with which he has been polemicizing throughout the novel. In the Dostoevskian universe, calculation is the worst sin. In Crime and Punishment, Luzhin is the greatest villain. Luzhin enthusiastically embraces utilitarianism (Pt 2, Ch 5): “If hitherto, for example, I have been told to ‘love my neighbor’ and I have done so, then what was the result? . . . The result was that I ripped my sheepskin in two, shared it with my neighbor and we both ended up half-naked . . . But science says: love yourself before loving anyone else, for everything in this world is founded on self-interest. Love yourself and your affairs will take care of themselves, and your coat will remain in one piece. . . . it is precisely by profiting myself and no one else that I thereby profit everyone, as it were, and enable my neighbor to receive something more than a ripped coat” (a nineteenth-century articulation of trickle-down economics and the prosperity gospel). A few pages later, Raskolnikov claims that Luzhin’s “theory in action” would justify murder: “Take what you were preaching just now to its conclusions, and one could stab people….” In short, Dostoevsky creates a powerful parallel between his sympathetic axe-murderer and the novel’s most despicable character. Just as Raskolnikov exposes the weaknesses of Luzhin’s theory by taking it to its logical conclusion, Dostoevsky exposes the weaknesses of Raskolnikov’s theory. He thus demonstrates that theories have consequences. It matters which “word” we follow.


Deborah A. Martinsen is Associate Dean of Alumni Education and Adjunct Associate Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where she teaches classes on Dostoevsky, narrative, and world literature. She is the author of Surprised by Shame: Dostoevsky’s Liars and Narrative Exposure (2003; in Russian 2011), and has most recently co-edited Dostoevsky in Context (2015) with Olga Maiorova. She was President of the International Dostoevsky Society (2007-13) and Executive Secretary of the North American Dostoevsky Society (1998-2013). She is also a managing editor of Dostoevsky Studies.

This post appears as part of the #CP150 project. For more information about the project, click here.

Virtual Crime and Punishment film festival this August!

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dostyfilm

In August, as part of #CP150, we will host a virtual festival of films inspired by Crime and Punishment! Join us to watch and discuss some intriguing films, and to think about ways of adapting or transposing Dostoevsky’s 1866 novel for the screen.

How it works: you watch the film and then we all discuss it together! You can discuss with us on Twitter, Facebook, or both!

On Twitterthe last 3 Sundays in August, at 8:30pm Eastern and 5:30pm Pacific, you’ll view the scheduled film in the comfort of your own home. You can find the copy yourself (they are available various places depending on which country you’re in: check your local or university library, or, if not, the various online options for rental Netflix, HuluPlus, iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, etc.), and queue it up to start at the designated time. Then, join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag  #cp150filmfest. We’ll live tweet the films together!

On FacebookIf you can’t make the designated screening time, or you’re not on Twitter, or you’d like to discuss again, the following Monday, we can discuss the films in the North American Dostoevsky Society FB discussion group (join by clicking on it and requesting to join!).

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Schedule:

Sun, Aug 14, 2016 – Robert Bresson’s The Pickpocket (1959)

Sun, Aug 21, 2016 – Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

Sun, Aug 28, 2016 – Woody Allen’s Match Point (2005)

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This film festival is part of the #cp150 celebrations, and is in the spirit of preparation for our October conference, where we will have a screening of a new adaptation of Crime and Punishment (Apocalypse Films, 2015), as well as several panels on adaptation/transposition (one devoted to Woody Allen!).

To see what a live-tweeted film is like, you can check out the Storify of the North American Dostoevsky Society’s previous virtual film screening here, part of #TheDoubleEvent that took place in November 2015!

(This has been cross-posted from the #CP150 website)

 

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