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Wages of Evil

Dostoevsky and Punishment

Anna Schur

Publication Year: 2013

Scholars and other readers usually examine Dostoevsky’s views on punishment through the prism of his Christian commitments. For some, this means an orientation toward mercy; for others, an affirmation of suffering as a path toward redemption. Anna Schur brings to bear a wide range of sources in philosophy, criminology, psychology, and history to examine Dostoevsky's ideas. His thinking was shaped not only by his Christian ethics but also by the debates on punishment theory and practice unfolding during his lifetime. As Dostoevsky attempts to balance the various ethical and cultural imperatives, he displays ambivalence both about punishment and about mercy. This ambivalence, Schur argues, is further complicated by what Dostoevsky sees as the unfathomable quality of the self, which hinders every attempt to match crimes with punishments. The one certainty he holds is that a proper response to wrongdoing must include a concern for the wrongdoers’ moral improvement.

Published by: Northwestern University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-x

The very first attempts at this book’s arguments date back to my dissertation years at the University of California, Davis. Not much has endured from that dissertation chapter except my gratitude to Catherine Robson, David Simpson, and especially to Harriet Murav, who first introduced me to how one thinks and writes about Dostoevsky in English. The 2002 National ...

Abbreviations of Works by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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pp. xi-xi

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pp. 3-18

In his 1922 essay that serves as an introduction to his catalog of Dostoevsky’s library, Leonid Grossman remarks on the “jurist’s vein” (zhilkaiurista) pulsating in Dostoevsky’s works. “Behind his journalistic writings,” Grossman writes, “one can feel a state theorist ...

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Chapter One - The Scaffold and the Rod: Dostoevsky on the Death Penalty and Corporal Punishment

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pp. 19-37

In the Chapter “Rebellion” in The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan famously confronts Alyosha with a roster of crimes against children that emblematize innocent and unavenged human suffering. In Ivan’s eyes, this suffering makes it impossible to accept the promise of universal ...

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Chapter Two - Squaring the Circle: The Justice of Punishment

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pp. 38-61

Unlike Dostoevsky's attitudes toward specific forms of punishment—such as corporal punishment and the death penalty, which have received some attention in Dostoevsky scholarship—his positions on broader questions have remained virtually unexplored. In this chapter, we will ...

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Chapter Three - Forgoing Punishment: Dostoevsky’s Third Category and the Case of Ekaterina Kornilova

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pp. 62-79

Dostoevsky's rather frequent admissions to having been “happy” when some obviously guilty defendants have avoided punishment offer further proof that his attitude can hardly be regarded as strictly ...

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Chapter Four - A Mummy or a Resurrected Self?

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pp. 80-113

Of all of Dostoevsky’s novels, the one that is most directly concerned with the relationship between legal punishment and moral betterment is The House of the Dead. Earlier chapters have considered this novel’s refl ections on a whole constellation of problems, from ...

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Chapter Five - India Rubber, the Living Soul, and the Process of Moral Change

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pp. 114-144

At the end of Crime and Punishment, the embittered Raskolnikov feels—and resents—a mounting pressure to confess. Speaking with Dunia hours before turning himself in, he argues angrily the absurdity of his surrender. The punishment that is in store for him is nothing but ...

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Chapter Six - Approximations of Justice: The Novel in the Courtroom

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pp. 145-169

In the previous chapter, we explored how the Dostoevskian “living soul”—the volatile, incalculable, unknowable self that he contrasts to the lifeless subject put forth by various forms of environmental determinism, physicalism, and psychological empiricism—is consonant ...

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pp. 170-174

In the opening chapters of The Brothers Karamazov, the Karamazov “discordant” (nestroinoe) family gathers in Zosima’s cell (BK, 31). As the protagonists wait for Dmitrii, who is late, conversation turns to Ivan’s recent article on the church and state. Ivan’s summary of the article and the discussion it prompts are ...


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pp. 176-210

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 211-223


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pp. 225-241

E-ISBN-13: 9780810166271
E-ISBN-10: 0810166275
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810128484
Print-ISBN-10: 0810128489

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 859687347
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Wages of Evil

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Subject Headings

  • Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, -- 1821-1881 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, 1821-1881 -- Ethics.
  • Punishment in literature.
  • Punishment -- Russia -- History -- 19th century.
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