Call for Papers: Beyond Carnival – Funny Dostoevsky

Dartmouth College, Hanover NH, May 2021
Conference organizers: Lynn Patyk (Dartmouth College) and Irina Erman (College of Charleston)

Has the global pandemic, economic recession, and creeping authoritarianism of 2020 got you down? If it has, then there’s one surefire cure: read Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky is chock-full of hilarity in all forms: satire, parody, good old-fashioned vaudeville, the carnivalesque (of course!), and micro humor. Sadly, literary criticism has focused overwhelmingly on “dark Dostoevsky” or “heavy Dostoevsky,” in the process saddling Dostoevsky with the partially undeserved reputation of being one of the deepest, darkest, and most depressing writers of European modernity. No doubt this is because the high seriousness of the academic enterprise, following the classical genre system, leads it to devalue the comedic and privilege more elevated styles and themes: the philosophical, the psychological, the metaphysical. Yet in Dostoevsky’s novels, many of these themes sound or are manifest in a slyly or raucously comic key, Ivan Karamazov’s devil being one outstanding example.

In order to celebrate the full range of Dostoevsky’s talent, personality, and artistry for his 200th anniversary in 2021, we are soliciting abstracts for conference papers (form of conference TBA: via Zoom, in person, or hybrid) that will identify, theorize, and above all demonstrate Dostoevsky’s prodigious comedic powers and situate the “pro” of his comedic vision vis-a-vis the “contra” of his tragic one to show that the two are in fact inseparable.

We are intending to host this conference at/under the auspices of Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, in May 2021. At the very least, we will gather on the most felicitous digital platform, share our papers, and crack each other up courtesy of Dostoevsky. Topics to be explored may include but are by no means limited to:

•       Dostoevsky’s comic types and tropes
•       Comic genres: vaudeville, satire, farce, literary parody, etc.
•       Funny words (heteroglossia and humor) and their intonations
•       The comedic function: resistance, subversion, provocation, joyful transcendence
•       Dostoevsky’s comedic influences and contemporaries
•       Gender and comedy: subjects or objects of humor?
•       Theories of the comic and comedy and Dostoevsky
•       The problems and possibilities inherent in Bakhtin’s approach to Dostoevsky’s comic poetics

Please send an abstract of no more than 500 words to Lynn Patyk at Lynn.E.Patyk@dartmouth.eduand Irina Erman ermanim@cofc.edu by September 15, 2020. Prospective participants will be notified by October 15, 2020.

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