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New Word on The Brothers Karamazov

Jackson, Robert Louis

Publication Year: 2004

Edited by the nation's most respected senior Dostoevsky scholar, this collection brings together original work by notable writers of varying backgrounds and interests. While drawing on Dostoevsky's other fiction, journalism, and correspondence, the writing of his contemporaries, the state of Russian culture to illuminate the unfolding novel these essays also make use of new fields of scholarship, such as cognitive psychology, as well as recent theoretical approaches and critical insights. The authors propose readings remarkable for their attentiveness to detail, relatively peripheral characters, and heretofore overlooked incidents, passages, or fragments of dialogue. Some contributors suggest readings so new that they are subvert our usual modes of approaching this novel; all reflect the immediacy of adventuresome, informed encounters with Dostoevsky's final novel. Treating The Brothers Karamazov in terms of a broad range of genres (poetry, narrative, parody, confession, detective fiction) and discourses (medical, scientific, sexual, judicial, philosophical, and theological), these essays embody on a critical and analytic level a search for coherence, meaning, and harmony that continues to animate Dostoevsky's novel in our day.

Published by: Northwestern University Press

Series: Studies in Russian Literature and Theory


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

It has been said that the great Gothic cathedral, an example of which is to be found in the thirteenth-century Cathedral of Our Lady at Chartres, can never be seen or fully taken in from any single perspective or in any given light; it is manifold and changing from every point of view. The same maybe said of The Brothers Karamazov, a work that breathes not the spirit of...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xi-2

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The Brothers Karamazov Today

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pp. 3-16

The extraordinary collection of essays in this volume is The Brothers Karamazov today. The student who lamented that reading The Brothers Karamazov is like carrying nine bags of groceries is The Brothers Karamazov today; so is the young man sitting at the back of the classroom who starts wiping his eyes. The novel reaches into our hearts, challenges our theories, ...

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Refiguring the Russian Type: Dostoevsky and the Limits of Realism

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pp. 17-30

In the prologue to The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky warns the reader apologetically that ...

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Mothers and Sons in The Brothers Karamazov: Our Ladies of Skotoprigonevsk

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pp. 31-52

What Zosima calls “maternal grief” manifests itself in various ways in The Brothers Karamazov.1 From the shriekers (klikushi) and the peasant woman grieving for her son who wait for Zosima as the action of the novel begins, to Ilyusha Snegiryov’s mother home mourning for her son as Alyosha preaches to the boys at the stone as the novel closes, the mothers of Skotoprigonevsk ...

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Shame’s Rhetoric, or Ivan’s Devil, Karamazov Soul

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pp. 53-67

In their third meeting, Smerdyakov tells Ivan: “You won’t want to ruin your life forever by taking such shame upon yourself in court. You’re like Fyodor Pavlovich, most of all, sir; of all his children you came out resembling him most of all, having the same soul as him, sir” (Ps, 15:68; BK, 632).1 However puzzling this statement seems at first, Ivan’s response is more so: “‘You’re not stupid,’ Ivan said as if struck; blood...

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Two Fates: Zosima’s Bow and What Rakitin Said

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pp. 68-73

There is a stark and unpredictable moment in The Brothers Karamazov in the chapter “Why Is Such a Man Alive!” (bk. 2, chap. 6). In the course of an ugly scandal, Fyodor Pavlovich, foaming at the mouth, challenges his son Dmitri to a duel across a handkerchief. “Why is such a man alive!” growls Dmitri. Everybody is poised in the expectation of something terrible. In the midst of the general confusion and ...

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Struggle for Theosis: Smerdyakov as Would-Be Saint

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pp. 74-89

As a boy, he enjoys spending his free time engaged in the ceremonial hanging of cats. As a young man, he shares some of his childhood tricks of the trade with a local youth, teaching the boy a particularly novel method of torturing dogs. Following a pattern common among animal torturers, he eventually sets his sadistic sights on a human being - in this case, murdering his blood father without much in the way of any ...

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Accidental Families and Surrogate Fathers: Richard, Grigory, and Smerdyakov

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pp. 90-106

In 1876, Dostoevsky wrote in a letter: "One of the most important problems at the present time to me, for example, is that of the younger generations and, along with it, the contemporary Russian family, which I feel is far from what it used to be even as recently as twenty years ago.”1 Indeed, from 1855 on, that is, after the death of Nicholas I and in the subsequent Great Reforms, Russia underwent a series of drastic ...

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The God of Onions: The Brothers Karamazov and the Mythic Prosaic

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pp. 107-124

Dostoevsky renders with remarkably consistent power the ideas he opposes, but his alternative often remains vague. The wrong view is almost always the idea that intellectuals possess some theory—utilitarianism, socialism, nihilism, or any other—that can account for all of human existence and ensure salvation if properly applied. For Dostoevsky, the idea that any ...

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Did Dostoevsky or Tolstoy Believe in Miracles?

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pp. 125-141

Seances and mediums claiming to be in contact with the dead were very fashionable in the 1870s among the educated Russian public. Within the context of larger debates of that time, spiritualism had a weightiness and plausibility not apparent when we view it in isolation.In the United States, where the modern spiritualist movement had arisen in 1848, the eminent philosopher and scientist William James investigated ...

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The Sexuality of the Male Virgin: Arkady in A Raw Youth and Alyosha Karamazov

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pp. 142-154

Ivan Karamazov asks, "Who doesn't desire the death of his father?” thus seeming to anticipate Freud’s Oedipal theory of human sexual development. But one must remember that Ivan speaks out of madness and error and that the novel ends by emphasizing the love that exists between fathers and sons, not the hatred and rivalry. In pre-Freudian thought about sexuality, and in Dostoevsky’s created world, there are no...

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Zosima’s “Mysterious Visitor”: Again Bakhtin on Dostoevsky, and Dostoevsky on Heaven and Hell

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pp. 155-179

Almost everyone who has taught The Brothers Karamazov has experienced in the classroom an anxiety similar to that which Dostoevsky suffered while writing it. Is the elder Zosima a sufficiently vigorous, convincing rebuttal of the “extreme blasphemy” of the Grand Inquisitor?1 Can Zosima be made to seem equally tough, unsentimental, novelistically compelling, a man who has also thought things through to the end ...

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Dostoevsky—Genius of Evocation: The Scene of Fyodor Karamazov’s Murder and Its Symbolic Topography

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pp. 180-191

Conceptually, our topic centers on the distinction between description and evocation. Our discussion of Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov’s house will illuminate the difference between these two categories. ...

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The Legend of the Ladonka and the Trial of the Novel

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pp. 192-199

Here, and elsewhere, the counsel for the prosecution in the trial of Dmitri Karamazov launches an attack on the credibility of that which he derisively calls the “the legend of the ladonka.” He comes down on Dmitri’s claim that he kept some of the money given to him by Katerina Ivanovna in a ladonka, an amulet made from his landlady’s old cloth cap, in order to show that, although a scoundrel, he, Dmitri, is not a thief. ...

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Sensual Mind: The Pain and Pleasure of Thinking

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pp. 200-209

In a well-known 1870 letter to Nikolai Strakhov, Dostoevsky wrote, “I’m weak in philosophy (but not in the love of it; in the love of it I’m strong).”1 In speaking of his weakness in philosophy, Dostoevsky meant his insufficient background in the scholarly discipline called philosophy. In confessing the strength of his love for philosophy, however,It is generally agreed that all main characters in Dostoevsky’s great ...

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The Jewish Question and The Brothers Karamazov

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pp. 210-233

What place would be assigned to the Jews in Dostoevsky’s theocracy? Would they be allowed to exist as a Judaic community within a larger Christian one? That would certainly depend on who the theocrat is: Father Zosima or the Grand Inquisitor. If the church state is structured in keeping with Father Zosima’s teachings, the Jews would probably be expected to merge with the Christians when the conditions for this ...

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Alyosha’s Speech at the Stone: “The Whole Picture”

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pp. 234-253

Here we have a remarkable statement by an author in his notebook about his creation. He is immensely proud of the profundity and power of his hero’s “negation of God”; indeed, he identifies his own spiritual trials with his hero’s experience. At the same time he informs us that “the whole novel serves as an answer” to that negation of God. ...

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The Brothers Karamazov Tomorrow

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pp. 254-258

Nearly a century and a quarter after the novel's first installments began to appear in The Russian Herald, we have learned to read The Brothers Karamazov very differently from its first reviewers. But not entirely. The essays in this volume work their way through the novel, from the author’s opening challenge to Alyosha’s concluding speech. In doing so, they parallel the initial reviews, which followed the course of ...


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pp. 259-261

E-ISBN-13: 9780810165854
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810119499

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2004

Edition: 1
Series Title: Studies in Russian Literature and Theory