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Dostoevsky and the Riddle of the Self

Yuri Corrigan

Dostoevsky was hostile to the notion of individual autonomy, and yet, throughout his life and work, he vigorously advocated the freedom and inviolability of the self. This ambivalence has animated his diverse and often self-contradictory legacy: as precursor of psychoanalysis, forefather of existentialism, postmodernist avant la lettre, religious traditionalist, and Romantic mystic. 

Dostoevsky and the Riddle of the Self charts a unifying path through Dostoevsky's artistic journey to solve the “mystery” of the human being. Starting from the unusual forms of intimacy shown by characters seeking to lose themselves within larger collective selves, Yuri Corrigan approaches the fictional works as a continuous experimental canvas on which Dostoevsky explored the problem of selfhood through recurring symbolic and narrative paradigms. Presenting new readings of such works as The IdiotDemons, and The Brothers Karamazov, Corrigan tells the story of Dostoevsky’s career-long journey to overcome the pathology of collectivism by discovering a passage into the wounded, embattled, forbidding, revelatory landscape of the psyche. 

Corrigan’s argument offers a fundamental shift in theories about Dostoevsky's work and will be of great interest to scholars of Russian literature, as well as to readers interested in the prehistory of psychoanalysis and trauma studies and in theories of selfhood and their cultural sources.

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Dostoevsky's Democracy

Nancy Ruttenburg

Dostoevsky's Democracy offers a major reinterpretation of the life and work of the great Russian writer by closely reexamining the crucial transitional period between the early works of the 1840s and the important novels of the 1860s. Sentenced to death in 1849 for utopian socialist political activity, the 28-year-old Dostoevsky was subjected to a mock execution and then exiled to Siberia for a decade, including four years in a forced labor camp, where he experienced a crisis of belief. It has been influentially argued that the result of this crisis was a conversion to Russian Orthodoxy and reactionary politics. But Dostoevsky's Democracy challenges this view through a close investigation of Dostoevsky's Siberian decade and its most important work, the autobiographical novel Notes from the House of the Dead (1861). Nancy Ruttenburg argues that Dostoevsky's crisis was set off by his encounter with common Russians in the labor camp, an experience that led to an intense artistic meditation on what he would call Russian "democratism." By tracing the effects of this crisis, Dostoevsky's Democracy presents a new understanding of Dostoevsky's aesthetic and political development and his role in shaping Russian modernity itself, especially in relation to the preeminent political event of his time, peasant emancipation.

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Dostoevsky's Dialectics and the Problem of Sin

Ksana Blank

In Dostoevsky’s Dialectics and the Problem of Sin, Ksana Blank borrows from ancient Greek, Chinese, and Christian dialectical traditions to formulate a dynamic image of Dostoevsky’s dialectics—distinct from Hegelian dialectics—as a philosophy of “compatible contradictions.”

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Dostoevsky's Secrets

Reading Against the Grain

Carol Apollonio

When Fyodor Dostoevsky proclaims that he is a "realist in a higher sense," it is because the facts are irrelevant to his truth. And it is in this spirit that Apollonio approaches Dostoevsky’s work, reading through the facts the text of his canonical novels for the deeper truth that they distort, mask, and, ultimately, disclose. This sort of reading against the grain is, Apollonio suggests, precisely what these works, with their emphasis on the hidden and the private and their narrative reliance on secrecy and slander, demand.

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Economies of Feeling

Russian Literature under Nicholas I

Jillian Porter

Economies of Feeling offers new explanations for the fantastical plots of mad or blocked ambition that set the nineteenth-century Russian prose tradition in motion. Jillian Porter compares the conceptual history of social ambition in post-Napoleonic France and post-Decembrist Russia and argues that the dissonance between foreign and domestic understandings of this economic passion shaped the literature of Nicholas I’s reign (1825 —1855).
 
Porter shows how, for Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, and Faddei Bulgarin, ambition became a staging ground for experiments with transnational literary exchange. In its encounters with the celebrated Russian cultural value of hospitality and the age-old vice of miserliness, ambition appears both timely and anachronistic, suspiciously foreign and disturbingly Russian—it challenges readers to question the equivalence of local and imported words, feelings, and forms.
 
Economies of Feeling examines founding texts of nineteenth-century Russian prose alongside nonliterary materials from which they drew energy—from French clinical diagnoses of “ambitious monomania” to the various types of currency that proliferated under Nicholas I. It thus contributes fresh and fascinating insights into Russian characters’ impulses to attain rank and to squander, counterfeit, and hoard. Porter’s interdisciplinary approach will appeal to scholars of comparative as well as Russian literature.
 

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The Elsewhere

On Belonging at a Near Distance

Adam Zachary Newton

"The Elsewhere." Or, midbar-biblical Hebrew for both "wilderness" and "speech." A place of possession and dispossession, loss and nostalgia. But also a place that speaks. Ingeniously using a Talmudic interpretive formula about the disposition of boundaries, Newton explores narratives of "place, flight, border, and beyond." The writers of The Elsewhere are a disparate company of twentieth-century memoirists and fabulists from the Levant (Palestine/Israel, Egypt) and East Central Europe. Together, their texts-cunningly paired so as to speak to one another in mutually revelatory ways-narrate the paradox of the "near distance."

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Endquote

Sots-Art Literature and Soviet Grand Style

Marina Balina, Nancy Condee, and Evgeny Dobrenko

Sots art, the mock use of the Soviet ideological clichés of mass culture, originated in Soviet nonconformist art of the early 1970s. An original and provocative guide, Endquote: Sots Art Literature and Soviet Grand Style examines the conceptual aspect of sots art, sots art poetry, and sots art prose, and discusses where these still vital intellectual currents may lead.

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Enemies from the East?

V. S. Soloviev on Paganism, Asian Civilizations, and Islam

Vladimir Wozniuk

As cultural conflicts roil the world, the idea of a “clash of civilizations” has lately taken hold, with commentators from both East and West weighing the religious and political disparities that affect global unity. For all its present currency and urgency, the idea is nothing new.  In various contexts V. S. Soloviev (1853–1900), the most distinguished representative of nineteenth century Russian religious philosophy, anticipated our current global dilemma by more than a hundred years. These essays, presented together for the first time in English, consider from a number of perspectives how a future clash of cultures between East and West threatens human progress toward the harmonic unity that, for Soloviev, represented the ultimate human telos.

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Epic Revisionism

Russian History and Literature as Stalinist Propaganda

Edited by Kevin M. F. Platt and David Brandenberger

Focusing on a number of historical and literary personalities who were regarded with disdain in the aftermath of the 1917 revolution—figures such as Peter the Great, Ivan the Terrible, Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Mikhail Lermontov—Epic Revisionism tells the fascinating story of these individuals’ return to canonical status during the darkest days of the Stalin era. 

    An inherently interdisciplinary project, Epic Revisionism features pieces on literary and cultural history, film, opera, and theater. This volume pairs scholarly essays with selections drawn from Stalin-era primary sources—newspaper articles, unpublished archival documents, short stories—to provide students and specialists with the richest possible understanding of this understudied phenomenon in modern Russian history.

“These scholars shed a great deal of light not only on Stalinist culture but on the politics of cultural production under the Soviet system.”—David L. Hoffmann, Slavic Review

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Erotic Nihilism in Late Imperial Russia

The Case of Mikhail Artsybashev's Sanin

Otto Boele

Banned shortly after its publication in 1907, the Russian novel Sanin scandalized readers with the sexual exploits of its eponymous hero. Wreaking havoc on the fictional town he visits in Mikhail Artsybashev’s story, the character Sanin left an even deeper imprint on the psyche of the real-life Russian public. Soon “Saninism” became the buzzword for the perceived faults of the nation. Seen as promoting a wave of hedonistic, decadent behavior, the novel was suppressed for decades, leaving behind only the rumor of its supposedly epidemic effect on a vulnerable generation of youth.
    Who were the Saninists, and what was their “teaching” all about? Delving into police reports, newspaper clippings, and amateur plays, Otto Boele finds that Russian youth were not at all swept away by the self-indulgent lifestyle of the novel’s hero. In fact, Saninism was more smoke than fire—a figment of the public imagination triggered by anxieties about the revolution of 1905 and the twilight of the Russian empire. The reception of the novel, Boele shows, reflected much deeper worries caused by economic reforms, an increase in social mobility, and changing attitudes toward sexuality.
    Showing how literary criticism interacts with the age-old medium of rumor, Erotic Nihilism in Late Imperial Russia offers a meticulous analysis of the scandal’s coverage in the provincial press and the reactions of young people who appealed to their peers to resist the novel’s nihilistic message. By examining the complex dialogue between readers and writers, children and parents, this study provides fascinating insights into Russian culture on the eve of World War I.
 

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