Editing Dostoevsky: Mikhail Katkov and the Great Russian Novel

by Susanne Fusso

What Russian literary figure competed with Belinsky for a young woman’s affection, traded public insults with Evgeniia Tur, indirectly gave Turgenev the idea of making a Bulgarian the hero of a Russian novel, called Dostoevsky “a fop perfumed with patchouli,” and prompted Tolstoy to summarize Anna Karenina as the story of “a certain lady who abandoned her husband . . . got angry at various things and threw herself under a railroad car”?

FussoKatkovCoverThe answer is Mikhail Nikiforovich Katkov (1818-87), the editor and publisher of the Russian Herald and the Moscow News. My book, Editing Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy: Mikhail Katkov and the Great Russian Novel, published by Northern Illinois University Press, is a study of the role Katkov played in the creation of some of the most significant works of Russian literature. My goal is to provide as dispassionate an account as possible of a man who inspired vehement passions, both positive and negative. Katkov was demonized in the Soviet era because of his conservative political activity in support of Russian nationalism and the autocratic state; in the Putin era he is being lionized as the “savior of the fatherland” (the title of a 2013 article on him). My study strives to offer a view of his literary activity that avoids these two extremes, giving him his due as the important figure he was, without vilification or canonization.

The study traces Katkov’s literary (and sometimes personal) relationships with Belinsky, Tur, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy. Of all the editor’s connections with Russian writers, his association with Dostoevsky was the most important and lasting relationship of Katkov’s literary career. Dostoevsky published all his most celebrated novels in Katkov’s Russian Herald: Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1868), The Devils (1871-72), and The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80); his seminal Pushkin speech was published in Katkov’s newspaper Moscow News in June 1880, six months before Dostoevsky’s death.

Chapter 4 of my book traces a kind of dialogue between Katkov and Dostoevsky in their journalistic polemics of 1861-63, a dialogue that preceded a long and productive working relationship. In this chapter I consider the issues that Katkov and Dostoevsky clashed over, as well as the points of inner, fundamental agreement that can help us understand what made possible their fruitful, if sometimes contentious, partnership. Chapter 5 deals with the famous episodes of Katkov’s interference in the artistic realization of two of Dostoevsky’s most important novels, Crime and Punishment (1866) and The Devils (1871-72). In this chapter I revisit Soviet literary historiography of these moments of conflict and attempt to restore a more balanced view of Katkov’s interventions.

The final chapter describes the Pushkin Celebration of 1880, in which Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Katkov all played prominent roles, from the viewpoint of its status as a kind of summing-up of Katkov’s literary career.  The Brothers Karamazov, the last important literary work to be published in the Russian Herald, was appearing in installments at the time of the Pushkin Celebration, and it was a major factor in the way that Dostoevsky’s Pushkin speech was received. In particular, I read Turgenev’s and Dostoevsky’s Pushkin speeches, as well as Katkov’s own 1880 essay on Pushkin, against the background of the appreciation of Pushkin by the German critic Varnhagen von Ense that was translated and published by Katkov in 1839.

The conclusion considers the nature of Katkov’s role as both editor and patron. As a writer of articles and editorials, Katkov presented a clear program for Russian literature, which was to affirm the political and historical importance of the Russian nationality as expressed through its language. As a powerful and entrepreneurial publisher, he also sought, encouraged, and paid for the writing of the works that were to embody that program, the works we now recognize as among the greatest achievements of Russian literature.


Susanne Fusso is Professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at Wesleyan University. She is the author of Designing Dead Souls: An Anatomy of Disorder in Gogol (1993) and Discovering Sexuality in Dostoevsky (2006; paperback 2007). She contributed articles on Dostoevsky to the recent collections Before They Were Titans: Early Works of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy (2015) and Dostoevsky Beyond Dostoevsky: Science, Religion, Philosophy (2016), and to the forthcoming Oxford University Press volume Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment: Philosophical Perspectives. She translated Sergey Gandlevsky’s autobiographical novel Trepanation of the Skull (2014), and is now completing a translation of his novel IllegibleEditing Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy: Mikhail Katkov and the Great Russian Novel was published in September 2017.

Revolutionary Dostoevsky

by Sarah J. Young

How might we think of Dostoevsky as a radical writer? In his later years he certainly seemed anything but. From his searing critique of nihilist ideas in Notes from Underground and Crime and Punishment, and his scathing portrayal of revolutionaries in Demons, to his increasingly virulent Orthodox nationalism and support for the authoritarian Tsarist regime expressed in his Diary of a Writer, his reactionary views appear to be in no doubt. Yet he understood the depths of human misery and the need for utopian visions and the transformation of society. He always maintained an interest in social justice that seems contrary to his political position, and his death was mourned by thousands of radical students. In his youth he did move in revolutionary circles, and much later acknowledged that even if he might not have found been a leader of such a movement, he was, and remained, capable of being a follower. His novels – typically of their focus on the extremes of human behaviour – show that fanatical atheism and fervent religious faith are two sides of the same coin, something he saw as a particularly Russian trait. Was this then just a reflection of the tensions in his own character and the ideological transition he experienced, or perhaps sought, within himself?

Revolutionary-DostoevskyAs a writer Dostoevsky was anything but traditional. His consistent questioning of reality and of the meaning – and possibility – of realism led him to experiment with novelistic form and made him a major precursor of modernism. He was an important influence on Russian Symbolism, German Expressionism and French Existentialism. Prototypes for many of the narrative innovations in James Joyce’s Ulysses can be found in Dostoevsky’s early novella The Double. Yet he is beyond any particular ‘ism’ himself. His polyphonic technique, identified in the theorist Mikhail Bakhtin’s seminal study The Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, pits voices, characters and ideas against each other. The religious faith the author himself espoused features among those voices, but is frequently challenged and seldom dominates. This multiplicity of contradictory voices is responsible for the proliferation of different interpretations of Dostoevsky over the last century and a half, and continues to give rise to new interpretations across various disciplines – from the humanities to the sciences – to this day.

These questions about Dostoevsky’s novelistic experimentation, the innovative readings he provokes from so many different perspectives, and their relation to the place of the author on the reactionary/radical divide, are at the heart of the conference Revolutionary Dostoevsky: Rethinking Radicalism taking place at UCL-SSEES on 20-21 October 2017. We will see how Dostoevsky reflects the political, social, ethical and religious dilemmas of every age. His own critique of terrorism placed him firmly within the political discourse of his milieu and acted as inspiration for subsequent generations of revolutionaries and their philosophical opponents.  Moving to the present day, Dostoevsky continues to illuminate the political, social and philosophical realms, but perhaps more surprisingly, we will discover his role in negotiating the digitally mediated world and the problems of artificial intelligence. Seeing the world through Dostoevsky’s eyes and novels always offers radical solutions.

It was perhaps inevitable in a new age of upheaval and populism, amidst Trumpism and Brexit, as well as the centenary of the 1917 revolutions, that Demons would prove central to a number of contributions. Speakers will consider, among other things, the role of provocateurs, connections between mental illness and politics, the spectre of mortality and possibility of spiritual revolution. The form and genre of this uniquely weird novel also come into focus, both as an experimental technique for shaping its opposition to political radicalism, and as a mode of narrating the unstable society and self.

That sense of instability – evident from Dostoevsky’s earliest works – underlies new approaches to problems of modern (and postmodern) subjectivity. Questions up for discussion include human vulnerability, radical conceptions of guilt, and the roots of revolt in shame and boredom, and different readings of motifs of death, resurrection, and dying again. Instability is also fundamental to innovative interpretations of Dostoevsky’s narrative strategy. A queer theological reading of Prince Myshkin will shed new light on the ways in which past, present and future might be different in Dostoevsky’s novels, while attention to aborted plot lines and the presence (or rather, absence) of babies provides the key to some of the other extremes of Dostoevsky’s novelistic world. Such radical narrative features and the subjectivities they shape ultimately subvert any conception of reality as stable in Dostoevsky’s works.

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Speakers from the UK, USA and Russia, from those starting out on their research careers to some of the most senior and respected scholars in the field, will debate these topics and others over a day and a half that promises to be thought-provoking and controversial, even, in true Dostoevskian mode, scandalous. Certainly Carol Apollonio’s keynote address, ‘Dostoevsky the Bolshevik’, promises to start proceedings on a provocative note. For information about that, and more details of the conference programme and registration, click here.

The conference will also feature the launch of a new translation of Crime and Punishment, published by Oxford University Press.

The hashtag for the conference will be #Dostoevsky2017.

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Revolutionary Dostoevsky: Rethinking Radicalism is supported by the SSEES FRINGE Centre, UCL’s Institute for Advanced Studies, the UCL Global Engagement Fund, and Oxford University Press.


Sarah J. Young is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London. Her book, Dostoevsky’s ‘The Idiot’ and the Ethical Foundations of Narrative: Reading, Narrating, Scripting, was published in 2004. She blogs about her research on www.sarahjyoung.com and tweets on @Russianist.

This post has been cross-posted from www.sarahjyoung.com.

The Dostoevsky Society of Japan

FMD-Kitami

by Tikashi KITAMI

Congratulations to the members of the newly formed Dostoevsky Society of Japan! We in the North American Dostoevsky Society welcome you warmly, wish you the very best, and look forward to fruitful communication, collaborative scholarship, and friendly discussion with you around the work of Dostoevsky for many years to come. 

Sincerely, Carol Apollonio, President, The North American Dostoevsky Society

The Dostoevsky Games: A New Tobacco Road Rivalry

Readers of The Bloggers Karamazov do not need to be convinced that time spent alone with Dostoevsky is time well spent. But we live in an age when reading itself, and engagement in the humanities generally, is under attack from all sides. Demonic forces, toxins and temptations abound, even (or especially) within institutions of higher education: careerism, pre-professionalism and utility; transient titillations and instant gratification; ephemeral and flashy things; insidious technological tools; and social media outlets like, ahem, this blog. In the face of all this chaos, the quiet, dark, brilliant, reader can use a little company.

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Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have long engaged in the fiercest rivalry in college sports. This year’s March Madness expanded the field of competition beyond the basketball court into Duke’s Rubenstein Library, where on 26 March 2017 elite teams from both institutions clashed in The Dostoevsky Games. Students clad in UNC light blue and Duke royal blue, coached by UNC’s Radislav Lapushin and Duke’s Carol Apollonio, respectively, met in a series of epic battles around Jeopardy, Taboo, “Name the Quote,” Dostoevsky Debate, and the performing arts.

The program is now available exclusively on The Bloggers Karamazov, and you can view it here!

The Games were well attended, with scores of competitors and spectators. Passions ran high, and the teams ran neck and neck through the afternoon, trading lead changes and ties. UNC presented a short film and a series of skits and mock interviews with Dostoevsky characters that, despite the high seriousness of the subject matter, sparked hilarity in the hall. For its part, Duke moved heartstrings and brought tears to many eyes with a soulful musical performance. The extremes of emotion thus inspired were worthy of the Master. One look at the UNC team’s winning video “The Fresh Prince of ‘To Dare'” will convince the readers of The Bloggers Karamazov of the overall quality of The Games. Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 11.07.56 PMUltimately, in a close race that seemed to come down to an edge in the performing arts, the workings of fate, and possibly a sheer numerical advantage, UNC edged past the hosting team and took possession of a well-deserved freshly 3D-printed Dostoevsky Games 2017 trophy. (Radislav Lapushin waves with the trophy in the image to the right)

The Dostoevsky Games benefitted from the intellect, stamina and energy of a world-class team of scholars, ranging from newly minted to well seasoned. Doctors Michael Marsh-Soloway (Master of Bobble-Heads and Busts), Denis Mickiewicz, and Ambassador Jack Matlock lent dignity and excitement to the occasion; Professors Irene Masing-Delic and Ilya Kliger served valiantly and with ruthless fairness as celebrity judges; and Professor Eric Naiman delivered an impressive keynote address.

The teams were so carried away by the intellectual ferment in the room that they remained on the field of battle through the Games’ culminating event: small-group discussions of Crime and Punishment over dinner led by the celebrity guests and judges. True to the spirit of Dostoevsky, groups at two of the tables carried on their frenzied debates even as tables and chairs were cleared from the room, throats were cleared, and doors were slammed more loudly than would normally be warranted. It is to the UNC team’s credit that its members remained on the scene with only the faintest of defections (though with some furtive gleams of cell-phone screens), even after 5:00 p.m. when their men’s basketball team began play in the Elite Eight. Skill, luck, dedication, passion, fate…this year they paid off for both UNC teams. But even a national basketball championship is a transient thing when you take home a Dostoevsky Bobble Head, a 3D printed trophy, and the World Championship in the first, and possibly only ever, Dostoevsky Games.

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Players and coaches on both sides are still in recovery. But should additional teams desire to take up the tradition or issue a challenge, we are available for consulting, and may even rise to compete again.

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The Dostoevsky Games were fueled by Duke University’s Humanities Futures program (The Franklin Humanities Institute) and the David L. Paletz Course Enhancements fund, with contributions from the Duke Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies.

Respectfully submitted,
Carol Apollonio


Carol Apollonio is the President of the North American Dostoevsky Society and a Professor of the Practice of Slavic and Eurasian Studies at Duke University. Her publications include Dostoevsky’s Secrets: Reading Against the Grain (2009) and The New Russian Dostoevsky: Readings for the Twenty-First Century (2010). 

The Dostoevsky 3D Printing Project

by Michael Marsh-Soloway

The Dostoevsky 3D printing project grew out of a series of energetic conversations with Carol Apollonio and Brian Armstrong at the 2016 ASEEES Conference in Washington D.C. The bobble head that we devised would serve not only as a prize at the 2017 Duke-UNC Dostoevsky Games in Durham, but also as a prospective merchandise offering for the North American Dostoevsky Society. These items can be manufactured by anyone with access to a 3D printer.

15078598_10102091516471045_5261402057652427077_nCarol and I collaborated on the production of the Dostoevsky model. She printed the models using more than 30 Ultimaker printers at the Innovation Co-Lab Studio at Duke, and then I used a series of MakerBot printers in UVa MakerSpaces (which you can see to the right). Printing the model at two universities allowed us to divide the assembly and manufacture of the removable components.

Specialists in the humanities have only recently started utilizing 3D resources, and these tools hold great potential for enhancing the study of artifacts, symbols, and spaces. The objects that Carol and I produced were made with a biodegradable, corn-based PLA plastic, which we selected as the cheapest and most easily obtainable material. Eventually, however, we may experiment with a range of other material compositions, including sand, chocolate, and various metals.

It is not advisable to manufacture edible models in a printer that has been used primarily for plastic productions. Small pieces of plastic could contaminate the finished product. ChocEdge, and Cocojet are two companies exploring culinary applications of 3D printing technology for chocolate, but it seems likely that the cheese, butter, and caramel industries will soon follow suit. In the medical sciences, doctors have started loading 3D printers with cell tissue to manufacture bodily organs. Thomas Boland of Clemson University was one of the first researchers to replicate organ structures with cells via ‘bioprinting’ procedures.
3d printing gifDepending on the size of the model, each Dostoevsky bobble head takes between two to ten hours to print. Users can adjust the size of the associated bobble head parts as their given 3D printer will permit. The Ultimaker printers at Duke University are equipped with a small camera that records a short time-lapse video of the manufacturing process, and users can opt to receive this video as a GIF file via an automated email message when the object is completed (ours is to the right of this text). Despite the long duration of each job, once the printing has started, the Ultimakers and Makerbots are safe to leave running unattended. In total, we printed 17 Dostoevsky figures in different colors that were given to students, game organizers, and guest judges.

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The most time-intensive process of 3D printing is the preparation of the associated component files. To print a 3D object, users need to develop their models as an STL file — Standard Tessellation Language. Although there are several 3D file types that can be processed by different printers, STL is the most common and universally recognizable format. The 3D printers construct the desired model layer by layer. The extruder melts the plastic into a molten noodle of sorts, and the final form appears as the material hardens after cooling. With irregular shapes, the plastic will sometimes drip over the sides of the model, but the resulting shards and columns can be easily removed with an awl or pliers. While users can download expensive programs to develop and modify STL files, Carol and I developed the Dostoevsky bobble head using only free and open-source tools. We used the following resources and steps to facilitate this process.

  1. There are several dozen reputable online repositories of 3D models. This blog post by Bulent Yusuf compiles the most popular sites, and rates their overarching functionality. Carol and I eventually used a Dostoevsky bust that we found on Thingiverse as the basis of the bobble-head. If we had not been able to find the open-source Dostoevsky model, we could have created our own file. Users can build 3D models from scratch using the free website, TinkerCad. Alternatively, while there are few memorials to Dostoevsky in the U.S., we could have generated a 3D model of our own by asking colleagues in Russia to photograph statues of the author with their cellphones. There are several apps, including 123D Catch, Trnio, and ItSeez3D, which employ the technique of photogrammetry to create a 3D model by photographing a given object from different angles. As yet another possibility, there are other digital tools like Smoothie 3D that allow users to approximate a 3D model from a 2D image.
  2. Using TinkerCad, I ‘remixed’ the open-source Dostoevsky bust, removing the head from the torso and pedestal, and placing a cylindrical hole in the base of the neck. Next, I found an open-source bobble-head torso on Thingiverse. Since we designed the Dostoevsky bobble head during the U.S. presidential elections, the most readily available bodies were those belonging to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The Hillary Clinton action figure came with a pearl necklace and high-heeled shoes, so we opted instead to use the Trump Though few people noticed or thought to inspect the files closely, it is not coincidental that the hands on the bobble head are disproportionally smaller compared to the rest of the body.
  3. Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 11.07.56 PMSpecial modifications were made to the largest bobble head model that would serve as the trophy for the Dostoevsky Games. We mounted the body on a rectangular pedestal bearing the inscription, ‘Champions The 2017 Dostoevsky Games’. Radislav Lapushin appears to the right holding the trophy. In retrospect, I should have tinkered more carefully with the fitting, because shortly after showing the audience the prize, the head of the model became detached, which provided a closing note of humor to the full day of intellectual discussion, performances, analysis, and debate. Printing the head and body as two separate pieces allowed the bobble head to move up and down, but the pieces can also be conjoined in a static model.

Since successfully producing the bust and bobble heads in various sizes, we have returned to our initial premise of the movable Dostoevsky action figure, as well as a range of other ‘remixed’ products. These more elaborate items could include mugs, showerheads, doorstops, coat hooks, vases, or even mock images of the author mounted on dinosaurs, animals, and cartoon characters. Here is a rough list of 3D objects that we’ve considered combining with the head of the author. Feel free to print one for yourself, and stay tuned for future product announcements!

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Michael Marsh-Soloway earned his PhD in Russian literature at the University of Virginia in 2016 with a dissertation entitled “The Mathematical Genius of F.M. Dostoevsky: Imaginary Numbers, Non-Euclidean Geometry, and Infinity.” He is a specialist in Russian literature, history, and linguistics. Currently, he serves as the Coordinator of the UVA Arts & Sciences Language Lab, and he soon hopes to publish his dissertation as an academic monograph.

Putting Dostoevsky in Context: an Interview with Deborah A. Martinsen and Olga Maiorova

We sat down to chat with Deborah Martinsen and Olga Maiorova about their new book, Dostoevsky in Context. First, congratulations on the publication of your book! I enjoyed reading Dostoevsky in Context a great deal, and will definitely be assigning excerpts from it to my students in the future.

Q. Tell us a little about your book. How did it come about? What is the premise behind it?

DAM: When Cambridge decided to add Dostoevsky as its first non-English language author in their “In Context” series, the editor approached Robin Feuer Miller.  Robin passed the baton to me.  I quickly realized that for such a huge project I needed a partner and immediately thought of Olga, a great literary scholar whose historical knowledge is much deeper than mine.  Olga agreed, and we compiled the table of contents together.  As we explain in our Introduction (which is largely Olga’s work), the volume’s focus on the broad social and intellectual contexts of Dostoevsky’s era allows us to read his works from our own perspective while understanding them as part of Russia’s nineteenth-century history.

OM: In-context study of Russian writers has always been on my research radar, and this is why I was so excited (and grateful!) when Deborah invited me to collaborate on this volume. And of course I was flattered to be working with Deborah Martinsen, a leading Dostoevsky scholar. In a way, our volume pursues a rather conventional approach to Dostoevsky: many generations of scholars have examined his work in historical and literary context. But our volume seeks to go beyond this approach by offering not so much a textual analysis in context (which is traditional), as an in-depth analysis of the contexts themselves, exploring them systemically from Dostoevsky’s perspective.  We also wanted to bring the most recent scholarship on the cultural and historical contexts into the field of Dostoevsky studies.  As time passes, historians, anthropologists, and, of course, literary scholars continue to discover new or overlooked aspects of life in the Russian Empire, and we sought to examine these emerging contexts to facilitate a better understanding of Dostoevsky.  And last but not least, we wanted to bring together in one book the various contexts that were relevant for Dostoevsky, thus introducing readers to the multi-dimensional world he inhabited, both in his everyday life and in his artistic imagination.

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Q. Your book examines Dostoevsky’s works in their historical and cultural context, and as a result its chapters are less about Dostoevsky and more about the age in which he lived- a huge topic! How did you choose which subjects to cover?

DAM: One of my aims was to convey to non-specialist readers that Dostoevsky was involved in Russia’s journal culture from the outset to the end of his career:  he wrote feuilletons in the 1840s, was an editor in the 1860s (Time, 1861-3; Epoch 1864-5), and published his mono-journal Diary of a Writer first as a column in The Citizen, a weekly he edited in 1873-4, then as an extremely popular independent journal in 1876-77, with issues in 1880 and 1881. Like other writers in Russia, Dostoevsky also published all of his fictional works in “thick journals.” He published his semi-autobiographical novel Notes from the House of the Dead  in Time (1861) and Notes from Underground (1864) in Epoch.  He wrote the stories “The Meek One” (1876) and “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man” (1877) for his Diary.

As a journalist, Dostoevsky was interested in all the major questions of his day, which helped us to choose the other topics.  With generous support from Columbia’s Harriman Institute and University Seminars, we were able to organize a workshop for volume participants at which we discussed the vital question of how to establish the right balance between context and the writings of Dostoevsky.  We also discussed what was missing, after which we invited a few more contributors and asked a few workshop participants to expand their articles to include missing topics.

OM: Another criterion for selecting what to cover was a series of relatively recent advances in our understanding of Dostoevsky’s time. Eye-opening studies of major cultural, social, and political institutions in the Russian Empire – the monarchy, the press and the law, the diversity of religions and the ecclesiastical policies governing them, the hierarchy of ranks, travel writing, suicide, women’s work, gambling, and the perception of children, to mention just a few –  all this new work pointed us toward contexts in which Dostoevsky’s work should be re-examined. In other words, it was the outstanding research of our contributors and, more broadly, recent developments in our field that helped us navigate through the project.

Q. What is your favorite part of the book?

DAM: I love every part of the volume.  Olga and I read and edited every single article, and I learned so much.

OM: I assign various sections of the book to my students and, as we move from chapter to chapter in our discussions, I find every one of them becomes my favorite.

Q. How do you think reading Dostoevsky with this contextualizing information changes or shifts readers’ understanding of his texts?

OM: Different readers may benefit from our volume in different ways. For general readers, we hope the book makes it possible to enjoy Dostoevsky’s novels on a deeper level. We all understand Crime and Punishment better if we know, say, the cultural mythology of Petersburg, where the story is set, or if we learn about the religious beliefs held by the common people in the 19th century. So for the general audience, our book simply expands the horizons. For high school and college instructors who do not specialize in Russia, our volume offers insights into the historical context of Dostoevsky’s age that they can incorporate in their teaching and thus exercise their analytical skills more creatively by using a broader set of materials.  We hope the volume will be of some use for Russianists as well, since it serves as a forum where historians and literary scholars encounter each other in mutually enriching exchanges. At least for us as the editors working across the disciplines was extremely rewarding and refreshing. As the product of an interdisciplinary team of scholars, our volume aims to facilitate further dialogue across the disciplines.

Q. Your volume is intended for a generalized readership, but what books would you recommend to those who desire further reading?

OM & DAM: We have compiled a list of recommended reading in the volume itself and hope it will be of some help. But here we would mention the five-volume biography by the late Joseph Frank — a book that dramatically advanced the study of Dostoevsky during the past three decades and that is now available in a hefty one-volume edition. Without Frank’s beautifully written and exciting monograph our work would not have been possible.

Dostoevsky in Context was published by Cambridge University Press in 2016 and is the first Russian entry in their “Literature in Context” series.


Deborah Martinsen is Associate Dean of Alumni Education and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Slavic Department at Columbia University. From 2007-2013, she served as President of the International Dostoevsky Society.  She is author of Surprised by Shame: Dostoevsky’s Liars and Narrative Exposure (2003) as well as articles on Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Nabokov. She is editor of Literary Journals in Imperial Russia (1997; in paper 2010) and co-editor with Cathy Popkin and Irina Reyfman of Teaching Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature: Essays in Honor of Robert L. Belknap (2014).

Olga Maiorova is an Associate Professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan; her previous publications include From the Shadow of Empire: Defining the Russian Nation Through Cultural Mythology, 1855-1870 (2010), edited collections of works by A. K. Tolstoi, Leskov, and Pisemskii, and numerous articles on Russian writers and thinkers ranging from Herzen and Leontiev to Dostoevsky and Goncharov.

This interview is part of a new feature on The Bloggers Karamazov. If you have recently published work on Dostoevsky and would like to be interviewed on our blog, please let us know!

CFP: Dostoevsky panels at MLA 2018

The MLA 2018 Convention will be in NYC this year (Jan 4-7). The International Dostoevsky Society has a guaranteed panel, which will be on this year’s MLA theme: “Dostoevsky and States of Insecurity.” The IDS may also propose two additional panels, the calls for which are as follows:

First Call: Dostoevsky and Conscience

The concept of ‘conscience’ is easily one of the most influential in the history of thought. It is also deployed frequently in the analysis of literary texts. However, the concept is often taken for granted both in literary studies and philosophy. This is especially troubling, given, as Paul Strohm recently put it, that “[c]onscience is a bit of a shape-shifter, remaining elusive in many of its particulars.” Dostoevsky scholarship is no exception, even though conscience plays a central role in his works. What, then, is Dostoevsky’s conception of conscience? Does he investigate multiple conceptions? How does his conception of conscience shape his fictional texts? What insights does his fiction provide for a more general investigation of the concept of conscience? This panel aims to explore these questions. Please submit abstracts of 300 words by March 10 to Dr. Brian Armstrong at barmstr3@augusta.edu.

367Second Call: The Idiot at 150

Dostoevsky’s second major novel, The Idiot, its associated with many superlatives: among his works, it is considered the most strange, most enigmatic, most difficult, and most problematic. It began serial publication in The Russian Messenger in January 1868, and so MLA 2018 is the perfect time to begin the sesquicentennial reflection on the novel. Please submit abstracts of 300 words by March 10 to Dr. Brian Armstrong at barmstr3@augusta.edu.


Please submit 300-word abstracts for all three panels to Dr Brian Armstrong (barmstr3@augusta.edu) by March 10.

Petition to save Slavonic and Eastern European Studies at KU Leuven

Prof. dr. Pieter Boulogne has alerted us to the fact that the Slavonic and Eastern European Studies program at KU Leuven is facing closure. The program is a vibrant one, and its closing is an administrative decision made without consultation with the department. (Information about the working group can be found here: https://slavistiek.wordpress.com/)

screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-1-39-15-amStudents have created a petition to call for the reconsideration of the program’s suspension and a democratic and transparent discussion. If you would like to support Slavonic and Eastern European Studies at KU Leuven, click here: https://www.change.org/p/ontdek-jezelf-begin-bij-west-europa-save-ku-leuven-s-slavonic-eastern-european-studies

“Дважды два четыре — ведь это, по моему мнению, только нахальство-с. Дважды два четыре смотрит фертом, стоит поперек вашей дороги руки в боки и плюется. Я согласен, что дважды два четыре — превосходная вещь; но если уже все хвалить, то и дважды два пять — премилая иногда вещица.” — “Записки из подполья”

(“Twice two makes four seems to me simply a piece of insolence. Twice two makes four is a pert coxcomb who stands with arms akimbo barring your path and spitting. I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too.” ― Notes from the Underground)

Dostoevsky panels at ASEEES 2016!

by Greta Matzner-Gore

819px-Vasily_Perov_-_Портрет_Ф.М.Достоевского_-_Google_Art_ProjectASEEES is just around the corner, and we’re looking forward to attending the many exciting panels on Dostoevsky. To help spread the word, we’ve compiled two lists: one of panels that focus primarily on Dostoevsky, the other of panels that include papers treating Dostoevsky’s thought and works. Come to as many as you can!

PANELS ON DOSTOEVSKY

THURSDAY

Ideas as Contagion: Dostoevsky’s Aesthetics of Catastrophe and Ethics of Excess

Thu, November 17, 1:00 to 2:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson

Brief Description

The Russian psychologist, V. Bekhterev, theorised about ideas being a form of virus and the spread of ideas a form of infection. Tolstoy spoke positively of “infectiousness” (заразительность) as a major component of popular aesthetics in “What is art?” (1897). In the light of these theories about the communication of ideas, the panel will consider how ideas are structured as ‘objects’ of representation in Dostoevsky’s fiction. The panel is keen to pursue the connection between the model of meaning and modern subjectivity, which emerges from Dostoevsky’s anthropology and aesthetics, and the culture of violence and revolution of his time and of ours. An explanation is sought in the psychoanalytic concept of the ‘real’ which defines the ‘unrepresentable’ or the ‘limit’ in the symbolic order, as well as in ideological constructs, contextualised historically and philosophically.

 

Trauma and Healing in Dostoevsky

Thu, November 17, 3:00 to 4:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson

Brief Description

Pain is at the center of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s conception of human subjectivity. A universally acknowledged master at portraying the plight of the human condition, Dostoevsky is no less adept at exploring various conduits for recovery. This panel will consider different forms of traumatic experience and recovery processes in Dostoevsky’s corpus.

 

The North American Dostoevsky Society: Interdisciplinary Readings

Thu, November 17, 5:00 to 6:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Madison A

Brief Description

This is the annual ASEEES panel sponsored by the North American Dostoevsky Society. This year’s papers each have an interdisciplinary element, as they touch on therapeutic jurisprudence, economic criticism, and ancient philosophy.

 

FRIDAY

 

Global Dostoevskys

Fri, November 18, 8:00 to 9:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson

Brief Description

This panel examines Dostoevsky’s work in its global context, reaching back to eighteenth-century Europe as well as forward to twenty-first century Africa and Asia. Sarah Hudspith’s paper brings together the unlikely combination of The Gambler and Laclos’s Les Liasisons Dangereuses in a comparative exploration of first-person narratives. Jeanne-Marie Jackson explores how two African novelists, Imraan Coovadia and Tendai Huchu, engage with Dostoevsky’s novel of ideas in a post-philosophical context. Connor Doak concentrates on how masculinity figures in contemporary film and TV adaptations of Dostoevsky in Kazakhstan, Japan, and Russia.

 

Formal (Dis)solutions in Later Dostoevsky

Fri, November 18, 10:00 to 11:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson

Brief Description

Each of the papers on this panel explores Dostoevsky’s ambitions for the novel genre as reflected in the experimental narrative forms of his later novels: disputed middles, proliferating endings, and extended prefaces. Focusing (respectively) on The Idiot, The Adolescent, and The Brothers Karamazov, we look at how these strange or estranged forms mirror, make possible, or challenge the novels’ innovative attempts to encompass incommensurability, eschatology, the ordinary, and the divine. As a group, our papers reflect on the contentious and persistent question of what constitutes formal “success” or “failure” in Dostoevsky’s later novels.

 

Dostoevsky’s “Dream of a Ridiculous Man”: Approaches and Perspectives

Fri, November 18, 1:45 to 3:30pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson 

Brief Description

Since its publication in 1877, Dostoevsky’s short story, “Dream of a Ridiculous Man,” has evoked a myriad of conflicting interpretations. It has been read as an account of delusional solipsism and of revelatory religious experience, and its protagonist has been viewed alternately as a prophet, a liar, a megalomaniac, and a saint. In focusing its panelists’ collective energies on this singular short story, the roundtable aims to bring a wide range of interpretations and approaches (from philosophy, literary theory, psychology and psychoanalysis) into dialogue in grasping the story’s elusive poetics, while also treating the story as a test case for mediating diverging approaches to and perspectives on Dostoevsky’s work as a whole.

 

Dostoevsky and the Political Underground: New Perspectives

Fri, November 18, 3:45 to 5:30pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson 

Brief Description

By the time Dostoevsky returned from imprisonment and exile in Siberia, he was certainly not a revolutionary politically, and his critical assessment of progressive liberalism, radicalism, socialism, as well as Westernization in general, is well known. Yet the productive conceptual exchange between Dostoevsky and the opposed political camp–even representatives of the political underground–deserves greater attention. Dostoevsky’s continued interaction with politically engaged intellectuals and revolutionaries would stimulate and enrich his own writings, while his influence on “underground” culture would continue long after his death. This panel will address this crucial aspect of Dostoevsky’s own ideological development and his ultimate cultural legacy through papers that will examine: 1) how Dostoevsky’s contact with former members of the Petrashevsky circle and their Polish and Ukrainian contacts following their Siberian exile helped to shape his concept of the narod, 2) how Dostoevsky helped to formulate the moral-aesthetic ideals that were subsequently embraced by Russian revolutionary terrorists, and 3) how Dostoevsky continues to be a “spiritual mentor” for the underground culture of Russian punk rock.

 

SATURDAY

 

Dostoevsky and the Icon

Sat, November 19, 8:00 to 9:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson

Brief Description

This panel uses the icon as a prism through which to read and interpret the work of Dostoevsky. Recent scholarship out of Russia on the topic of literary icons, iconic vision and the treatment of iconic space provides a rich source of new theoretical approaches to Dostoevsky’s work. The nature of the iconic image allows panelists to consider the relationship among the textual, visual, spiritual and philosophical aspects Dostoevsky’s aesthetics.

 

Russian Literature: Philosophy, Physiology, Intertextuality

Sat, November 19, 8:00 to 9:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jefferson

 

Dostoevsky and Philosophy

Sat, November 19, 10:00 to 11:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson

Brief Description

In 2002, Joseph Scanlan wrote that the “idea of treating a great writer as a philosopher will be unsettling to both writers and philosophers.” It may seem that such “philosophical ghostwriting,” as Scanlan describes it, will do injustice to the literary text; it may also seem that such ghostwriting will fail to be philosophically rigorous. Nonetheless, the influence of philosophy on Dostoevsky and of Dostoevsky on philosophy remains. This panel aims to further investigate those influences in an attempt to do justice to both Dostoevsky’s thought and writing.

 

Consciousness and Selfhood in Dostoevsky

Sat, November 19, 1:45 to 3:30pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson 

Brief Description

This panel examines the interactions among the elements of personality – mind, consciousness, the unconscious, soul, body – that constitute and inform Dostoevsky’s complex and synthetic understanding of the human being. David Powelstock examines the consequences of the fracturing of mind and body in Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground. Evgenia Cherkasova explores the importance of unconscious experience in Brothers Karamazov as a catalyst for existential responsibility. Yuri Corrigan explores how Dostoevsky’s ambivalent and potentially paradoxical attitude to the concept of the self finds resolution in the Brothers Karamazov through Dostoevsky’s study of how the personality constitutes itself through reliance on the agencies of others.

 

Crime and Punishment at 150: Reconsidering the Novel’s Epilogue

Sat, November 19, 3:45 to 5:30pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson 

Brief Description

2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. This panel will mark the occasion by reconsidering the novel’s controversial and much disputed epilogue. These three papers each take a different methodological approach to this problem. Bowers examines the epilogue from the perspective of genre theory, exploring where its tension between form and philosophy originates, and analyzing the work’s application of the “lowbrow” genre of detective fiction to its “highbrow” artistic ambitions. Holland compares the epilogue with the ending of The Brothers Karamazov, examining both from the perspective of Dostoevsky’s attempt to become reconciled to the novelistic form’s resistance to salvific narratives. Young uses distance reading tools, such as concordances and topic modelling, to compare the epilogue’s lexical patterns to those of the Petersburg text and Dostoevsky’s carceral works and to suggest further possibilities for digital analysis of Dostoevsky’s works.

PANELS FEATURING PAPERS ON DOSTOEVSKY

 

THURSDAY

 

Emotions in Russian Literature I

Thu, November 17, 1:00 to 2:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Johnson

 Brief Description

This is the first of three interconnected panels about emotions in Russian literature. In this particular panel we consider melancholia in Chekhov, as well as the emotional valences of Russian literature for actors and mental health professionals. Whether as readers, actors, or social workers, all those exposed to Russian literature are confronted with its deep emotionalism.

 

Gender and Sexuality in 19C Russian Literature & Art

Thu, November 17, 1:00 to 2:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Hoover 

Brief Description

This roundtable brings together a group of early-career researchers whose work explores gender and sexuality in 19C Russian literature and art. Our roundtable considers whether and how recent theoretical perspectives on gender and sexuality (queer theory, affect theory, theories of men & masculinity) can illuminate 19C literature and art. We each bring our own case study to the table: Connor Doak (Bristol) will address performances of masculinity in the early Dostoevskii; Allison Leigh (Cooper Union) will speak on men in paintings of interiors from the 1830s-40s in relation to Pushkin’s Evgenii Onegin; Emily Wang (Princeton) will discuss homosocial affect in the Decembrist movement and Decembrist poetry; Jennifer Wilson will speak on Spinsters in Tolstoy and Queer Theory. However, we envisage the roundtable will not just be a series of close readings of texts, but also a broader discussion of the possibilities and pitfalls of bringing contemporary theory to 19C Russian culture.

 

The Relevance of Russian Thinkers: Contemporary Approaches to Nihilism, post-Nihilism and Relativism

Thu, November 17, 3:00 to 4:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Lobby Level, Delaware B 

Brief Description

From Nietzsche to Heidegger to postmodernism, Western debates on the significance and value of life have taken cues from the Russian intellectual tradition. The interrelated problems of nihilism and its overcoming have acquired special urgency in the last fifteen years since 9/11. In their responses to the contemporary global intellectual, axiological and political crises, Western philosophers have been once again drawing extensively on such Russian thinkers as Herzen, Bakunin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Alexandre Kojève and some others. The goal of our roundtable is to bring attention to this recent intellectual trend and discuss its implications for the development of the Slavic field worldwide. The theme of this roundtable fits well with the main theme of the 2016 Convention, “Global Conversations.”

 

The Power of (Mis)Reading: Literature and Journalism in the Second Half of the 19th Century

Thu, November 17, 3:00 to 4:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Lobby Level, Park Tower Room 8205 

Brief Description

In the middle of the 19th century, thick journals reached the zenith of their power and influence. Writers and journalists became the new “heroes of the time,” who believed in their higher calling to transform Russian society by making literature serve most importantly a social function. Even those writers who ruled over the hearts of the public often had to negotiate the “true message” of their works with other powerful readers, most importantly, with popular journalists, literary critics and the censor. This panel will explore literary and historical approaches to the problem of competing (mis)readings, questions of literary politics, and the phenomenon of the interpenetration of literature and journalism in the second half of the 19th century as a way to recreate an important context for the development of classical Russian literature.

 

Boris Akunin’s Global Engagements: Allusions to the World’s Classics and History Writing

Thu, November 17, 3:00 to 4:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Harding 

Brief Description

This panel explores creative output by Grigorii Chkhartishvili, a contemporary Russian writer who has mostly published under the pen name Boris Akunin. The paper by Elena Baraban examines the functions of Boris Akunin’s allusions and remakes of the novels by Dostoevsky (most notably, “Crime and Punishment”). Yekateria Cotey discusses the allusions to Charles Dickens’s “Great Expectations” and “Old Curiosity Shop” that appear in the novel Devyatny Spas, which Chkhartishvili published under the pen-name Anatoly Brusnikin. In the paper entitled “An Instructional Manual for the Nation: Boris Akunin’s History of the Russian State,” Stephen Norris examines Akunin’s recent popular history books. All three papers explore the ways in which Chkhartishvili re-contextualizes Russian literature and history in a global context through engaging a variety of postmodern writing techniques.

 

The Concept of Dignity: Russian and Cross-Cultural Perspectives

Thu, November 17, 5:00 to 6:45pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Lobby Level, Delaware B 

Brief Description

Protests that have been recently spreading around the globe as citizens advocate for dignity, make the concept of dignity a topical subject for academic study. It is used by the scholars that fit into the spectrum that starts from the liberal the human rights theorists and ends by ideologists of Al Qaeda and ISIS. The panel analyses the historical sources of dignity and its normative, legal and societal implications. The panel contributes to the discussion of dignity in the discipline of political theory and sheds light on how dignity is perceived in various cultures. Oleg Kharkhordin examines the perception of dignity in contemporary Russia. Xenia Cherkaev studies the interpretation of dignity by the judiciary and international human rights discourses. Boris (Rodin) Maslov explains the meaning of dostoinstvo (dignity) and analyses its sources in the discourse of XI-XVIII centuries.

 

FRIDAY 

 

Translation as Global Conversation Panel 6: National Literatures as World Literature in (Re)translation

Fri, November 18, 3:45 to 5:30pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, McKinley

Brief Description

This panel is part of the series of panels on translation: “Translation as Global Coverstion” organzied together with Julie Hansen, Uppsala U, Sweden.

The panel aims to investigate how canonical and non-canonical literatures are being mediated outside of their home countries as World Literature and what the role of translation is in this process. Different aspects of (re)translation, new translation and intermediary texts will be discussed following the recent debates on retranslation in the field of literary translation.

 

SATURDAY

 

Ecology and Russian Culture VI: (Un)Natural Catastrophe

Sat, November 19, 8:00 to 9:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Lobby Level, Park Tower Room 8216

Brief Description

This is the sixth of six panels, collectively titled “Ecology and Russian Culture,” which seek to foster interdisciplinary conversations about ecology and environment among specialists of Russian literature, history, and culture. Prompted by the eco-critical turn in the humanities broadly conceived, these panels address issues of nature, industry, ecology and the nonhuman from the nineteenth century to the contemporary period. Our panels include, but are not limited to, discussions of the following topics: representations of the animal and human-animal relations; representations of nature and natural philosophy; ecocritical visions of land and empire; the changing environment and ecological disasters; resource management, sustainability, and environmental activism; and the myriad ways in which genre, culture, history, and politics interact with ecology. This panel will address the shifting links and tensions between man, nature, and culture in prominent literary works of the 19th and 20th centuries.

 

Comparative Modernisms

Sat, November 19, 10:00 to 11:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Lobby Level, Park Tower Room 8205 

Brief Description

This panel proposes to examine aspects of the complex relationship between Russian and European Modernism, both from the perspective of 19th-c. roots as well as from that of the early 20th-c. flourishing of the respective movements. Discussion of Abramovitch, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva, and Bely alongside, respectively, Dickens, Joyce and Eliot.

 

Icons and the Arts

Sat, November 19, 1:45 to 3:30pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jefferson

Brief Description

This panel explores emerging ideas about the relationship among iconic practices, the composition of the icon, its representation in the visual and literary arts, and the meaning of this intersection. The dynamics among word, image and gesture are explored in the work of Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Valeriia Narbikova, Varlam Shalamov, Platonov, Bulgakov, Pasternak. The visual art of Narbikova, Kazimir Malevich and the Russian orthodox icon come into play as panelists consider issues such as visual perspective, the tactile origins of the icons, and the role of artist and reader/observer. The round table proposes a complex framework that examines ways in which traditional paradigms of image and perception are abolished, reinterpreted or perverted. On a broad cultural level, the group will consider the challenge to the privileged position of Logos established in western and post-Petrine Russian culture; the relationship between art and icons seems to reintegrate the verbal and the visual in a way that recalls more traditional understandings within Orthodox culture. Because of the exploratory nature of the discussion and the fact that many panelists are introducing new and highly interdisciplinary work, the round table will be the best forum for such a discussion.

 

Historical and Literary Intertexts in Late Nineteenth-Century Russian Fiction

Sat, November 19, 3:45 to 5:30pm, Wardman DC Marriott, Lobby Level, Park Tower Room 8212 

Brief Description

This panel examines the intertexts for Russian realism, reaching back in time and across national boundaries to find the roots of late 19th century Russian texts. The textual influences examined include imported French and British literature, widely circulated in mid-century society, and their respective narrative strategies, and historical contexts, particularly women’s revolutionary behavior. The works of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Korolenko, and Polonsky will be investigated alongside their intertexts.

 

SUNDAY

Senses and Inspiration: Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tsvetaeva

Sun, November 20, 8:00 to 9:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson

 

Family in the 19th-Century Realist Novel

Sun, November 20, 8:00 to 9:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Lobby Level, Park Tower Room 8212

Brief Description

This panel considers the meaning and value of family, and more broadly human connectedness, as they are represented in the 19th-century Russian realist novel. Questions to be considered include: How do Russian views of family contrast with European? Is the family the ideal form of social organization, and if not, what alternatives might exist? What makes for valuable or ethical familial relations? What other social meanings is family a metaphor for?

 

Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Nabokov: Aikhenvald and the Stakes of Criticism

Sun, November 20, 10:00 to 11:45am, Wardman DC Marriott, Mezzanine, Jackson 

Brief Description

This panel seeks to bring needed attention to the critical practice and aesthetic theories of Yuli Aikhenvald, whose work was influential for Vladimir Nabokov’s artistic practice. Immensely popular just before Formalism took the stage, Aikhenvald’s idealist-inspired “immanent” criticism soon faded from public view. This panel explores the critic’s view of work in relation to Tolstoy; his views of Dostoevsky in relation to Nabokov’s early lectures on Brother’s Karamazov; and his theory of author’s and reader’s activity in light of Nabokov’s own engagement of these concepts.

 


Greta Matzner-Gore is an Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Southern California. A specialist in nineteenth-century Russian literature, her research interests include narrative theory, the ethics of reading, and the intersections between science and literature. She is also a founding member of the North American Dostoevsky Society’s Reader Advisory Board.