Beyond Borders: Revisiting Global Dostoevskys

By Melanie Jones and Chloe Papadopoulos

The North American Dostoevsky Society stands with all the people of Ukraine, Russia, and the rest of the world who condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Our statement can be read here.

On January 17, 2023, Bloggers Karamazov published the final installment of our “Global Dostoevskys” series, which began in December 2021 with the intention of illuminating the lesser-studied ways in which Dostoevsky has been taken up, adapted, and re-imagined around the world. “Global Dostoevskys” was born of a desire to shed further light on how Dostoevsky has impacted the arts and public discourse outside of Russia. When the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the imperative to extend our gaze beyond the borders of Russia, and bring “Great” Russian literature into cross-disciplinary conversations, became ever more clear. It has been the goal of this series to invite voices that shed light on Dostoevsky’s complex legacy and works on a global scale. We have been delighted, surprised, and challenged by the diverse range of contributions that this initiative has attracted.

Even for seasoned Dostoevsky scholars, the sheer breadth of influence uncovered by this series is astonishing. Every continent on Earth appears crammed with authors who draw, or have drawn, on his legacy and works. Nine countries were singled out for study in “Global Dostoevskys,” spanning Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Nine more countries’ traditions were also brought into discussion, expanding Dostoevsky reception’s already impressive borders from India to the Netherlands; from Belarus to Palestine.

All together, we believe “Global Dostoevskys” offers something crucial and invigorating to the field of Dostoevsky studies, and to reception studies more broadly. As several posts highlight, many of the existential, ethical, and aesthetic quandaries that fascinated Dostoevsky have been utterly reimagined by a postmodern world. Other posts stress the unexpected resonance of  nineteenth-century Russian texts for writers of disparate backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs. And still others address how Dostoevsky’s writings, and even the author himself, have been taken in radically new directions by translators, censors, and adaptors, upturning some of our most basic assumptions about how to read the author and what lessons to take from him.

These posts have also brought some of the richest provocations and deepest tensions within Dostoevsky’s works to the surface. Over the past two centuries, his writings have been embraced by ardent nationalists and voluntary exiles; by fervent believers and equally fervent atheists; by purveyors of conquest and genocide, and by those who saw, in the exact same oeuvre, a pathway out of oppression and hate. Taken together, each tradition, and each generation, offers new ways to complicate and enrich the topics Dostoevsky held most dear: the relationship between aesthetics and ethics; the depth and breadth of the human spirit; and the endless revitalization of the literary process.

It is our sincere hope that this series will resonate with all who work on and appreciate Dostoevsky, and that “Global Dostoevskys” will encourage those who bring expertise from within and outside of the field of Slavic Studies to make more unexpected connections, both in their research and in their intellectual communities. This project is evidence of the power of literature to connect people across space and time, and to challenge accepted ways of thinking and being. There is much work to be done on the national mythologies that haunt Dostoevsky’s works: we believe that the encounters which these posts have emphasized are only the beginning of a rich collective effort to decolonize and rethink the Russian canon, and to better understand the long social afterlives of Dostoevsky and his oeuvre. 

Thank you to our co-editor Christina Karakapeli, to all of our contributors, and to Bloggers Karamazov for giving our initiative a home.

Posts in the Global Dostoevskys Series: 

Poet, Jeweler, Gambler: J.M. Coetzee’s Biofictional Dostoevsky in ‘The Master of Petersburg’ – Laura Cernat 

Malayalee’s Dostoevsky – Dr. Karthika SB 

Raskolnikov on Trial in Postwar France – Ian Williams Curtis 

Dostoevsky, Ferrante, and the Challenge of Writing Authentically – Sarah Hudspith and Olivia Santovetti 

Dostoevsky’s Philosophical Justice and Moral Dilemma in the Egyptian Novel – Jihan Zakarriya 

Race and Nation: Arthur Moeller van den Bruck’s Influence on German Reception of Dostoyevsky – Dmytro Memari Fard

Anti-National Dostoevskys: Linda Lê and “Literature in Exile” – Melanie V. Jones

African-American Writers and Dostoevsky – Maria Bloshteyn 

The First Greek Translation of Crime and Punishment: Introducing a New Poetics to Modern Greek Literature – Christina Karakepeli

Introducing Global Dostoevskys – Melanie Jones and Christina Karakepeli 

Dr. Melanie Jones is on Faculty at the Bard Prison Initiative and Bard Microcollege. She works across Russian, English, and Francophone literature, specializing in Disability Studies and the Medical Humanities. Her latest article, “Rebel-Klikusha: Sexual Trauma and Spiritual Crisis in Dostoevsky’s Idiot,” can be found in the Winter 2022 Edition of the Slavic and East European Journal.

Chloe Papadopoulos is a Lecturer in the Department of Russian Studies at Dalhousie University and is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Yale University, where she is writing her dissertation on representations of the Russian premodern past in literature, drama, and the plastic arts during the Great Reforms. She serves on the Readers Advisory Board of the North American Dostoevsky Society and is Assistant Editor of the Bloggers Karamazov. Her article, “Speaking Silently and Overnarrating in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ‘Krotkaia,'” appeared in Dostoevsky Studies in 2021.

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