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Feminine Resurrections: Gendering Redemption in the Last Novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky Rebecca Stanton Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov (Brat'ia Karamazovy, 1880) and Tolstoy's Resurrection (Voskresenie, 1899) offer tempting grounds for comparison, despite the aesthetic and ideological differences that separate the two works, and the consequent hazards with which any such comparison, however limited , must be fraught. Each is, of course, the last full-length novel of a nineteenth-century Russian literary giant. In each, a plot centering on a miscarriage of justice provides the fictional framework within which the author elaborates his moral philosophyl Each foregrounds the problem of sensuality , the aspect of human beings that makes them susceptible to temptation and Fall. And in each novel, tempta tion has a feminine face, appearing in the guise of an alluring orphan with a morally dubious past: Grushenka Svetlova in The Brothers Karamazov, Katiusha Maslova in Resurrection . It goes without saying that Katiusha and Grushenka are not the same character, any more than Resurrection and The Brothers Karamazov are the same book; a juxtaposition of these two "fallen women," however, reveals some intriguing parallels, which form the object of the present investigation. Surprisingly, the literary importance of these two characters is far from a settled matter; many critics have dismissed them as ancillary to the action of their respective novels. Grushenka, for example, gets lumped in with the rest of Dostoevsky's women, who are said "not [to] have their own personal history," but instead "enter into the heroes' biography, constitute part of their fate."2 Richard Curle dismisses her as "a shadowy figure" whose "personality fades into individual nullity,"3 whereas Victor Terras refers to her without qualification as "the heroine of the novel,"4 an evaluation somewhat borne out by Dostoevsky's own original intention to name Book VII of The Brothers Karamazov (eventually titled"Alyosha") after her. Katiusha, despite her prom1 The court cases described in each novel are, moreover, loosely based on real events, which were recounted (separately) to Tolstoy and Dostoevsky by the jurist A. F. Koni (1844-1927). See Terras, Karamazov Companion, 8; and Opul'skaia, "Psikhologicheskii analiz v romane Voskrescnie," 315. 2 Mochulsky, Dostoevsky, 60l. 3Curle, Characters of Dostoevsky, 195,217. 4 Terras, Karamazov Companion, 158. Mapping the Feminine: Russian Women and Cultural Difference. Hilde Hoogenboom, Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy, and Irina Reyfman, eds. Bloomington, IN: Siavica Publishers, 2008, 71-90. 72 REBECCA STANTON inence in Resurrection, is the object of similar dissent: while L. D. Opul'skaia proclaims her "one of the highest achievements of Tolstoy's realistic art,',5 John Bayley remains unconvinced, dubbing her a "selected and hypothetical" character whom the reader "cannot assimilate."6 According to Viktor Shklovsky , "Katiusha Maslova's perception of the world" is "the pivot of the plot."7 (This assertion is supported by Tolstoy's own revisions to his original manuscript ; feeling it began "falsely" [lozI1l10], because it was "necessary to begin with her," he rewrote the opening of the novel to place Katiusha at the center8 ) Michel Aucoutrier, however, denies her any independent role in the plot at all: "Whatever place Katiusha Maslova occupies, she is no more than the partner of Prince Dmitri Nekhliudov."9 To dismiss Katiusha thus is to give the text only a superficial reading. While an argument of sorts can be made for the view that Grushenka is a "female counterpart" of Dmitri Karamazov-"a somewhat coarse, hot-blooded creature, capable of cruelties and of a craftiness altogether foreign to him, but having also much of his humanity"lO _the plot of Resurrection tums precisely on the irreducible differences between Katiusha and Nekhliudov. However, what skeptical critics like Aucoutrier and Mochulsky correctly sense is that Grushenka never, and Katiusha rarely, appears "onstage" independently of the male characters whose perceptions dominate the narrative, and in relation to whom they are largely defined. (In fact, as we shall see, the male characters in each novel reveal as much about themselves through their relationships to these two highly symbolic women as they do through their own actions.) As a result of this dramatic subordination, it is easy to regard them merely as extensions of the more active male characters in their respective novels, without attending to the contributions they make to the narrative in their own right. While Katiusha and Grushenka might appear to function merely as reflective surfaces, convenient targets for (and mirrors held up to) the moral weakness and subsequent repentance of the male characters whose perspectives dominate their...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780893578541
Related ISBN
9780893573546
MARC Record
OCLC
835520190
Pages
366
Launched on MUSE
2012-12-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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