The Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies is holding its 51st annual convention in San Francisco, November 23–26. Once again, the conference offers a rich selection of panels, roundtables, and individual presentations on Dostoevsky’s works and thought. The list below is divided into two parts: Part I features panels and roundtables that focus primarily on Dostoevsky; Part II lists panels and roundtables where Dostoevsky’s works or legacy feature prominently in at least one presentation. We hope you can join us in San Francisco to hear about the fruits of another year’s work on Dostoevsky!
Panels with a Principal Focus on Dostoevsky
Sunday, November 24
Philosophy and Form throughout Dostoevsky’s Creative Corpus
2:30 to 4:15pm, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: 4, Pacific I
When discussing Dostoevsky’s famous claim (“I am only a realist in the higher sense, that is, I depict all the depths of the human soul”), Robert Louis Jackson points out that “it is no surprise, against a background of an age dominated by German romantic aesthetics, to find Dostoevsky positing art as a form of philosophical inquiry <…> and the object of philosophical inquiry is simultaneously the object of poetic creation” (Dostoevsky’s Quest For Form. A Study of His Philosophy of Art, 13). The goal of this panel is two-fold. First, we aim to address the ways in which philosophy and poetics are inextricably interwoven throughout Dostoevsky’s oeuvre: from the influence of Friedrich Schelling’s Philosophy of Identity on the early novella White Nights, to The Brothers Karamazov’s specific conception of love as informed by the author’s readings of the Gospels and patristics. Secondly, we will examine, by means of close-reading, Dostoevsky’s “quest for form” in its metaliterary dimension, looking at how, in Crime and Punishment, the concept of form is encoded on the phonemic level and builds up into the novel’s potential master trope. We envision the two approaches—one foregrounding the philosophical context of Dostoevsky’s creation, the other privileging the texts’ formal features— as compatible rather than contradictory. Given the broad scope of works that our panel touches upon, we hope to identify both shifts and consistencies across Dostoevsky’s corpus, from his early, pre-exile works to his final novel.
“Reason and Aesthetic Knowledge in Dostoevsky’s ‘Belye nochi’” – Kit Pribble, UC Berkeley
“‘Form Won’t Run Away’: Patterns of Paranomasia in ‘Crime and Punishment’” – Semyon Leonenko, UC Berkeley
“‘He That Loveth Not Knoweth Not God’: Praxis, Theory, and Spiritual Knowledge in The Brothers Karamazov” – Braxton Boyer, U of Toronto (Canada)
Discussant: Julian W Connolly, U of Virginia
Chair: Lindsay Marie Ceballos, Lafayette College
The North American Dostoevsky Society: The Idiot Approaching Modernity
4:30 to 6:15pm, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: 4, Pacific I
This panel marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Idiot with three papers focused on the novel’s relationship with modernity. The first paper examines the novel’s situation in the modern through its engagement with philosophy, both its involvement in contemporaneous debates and its grounding in Enlightenment humanistic discourse. The second paper looks at illness in the novel and, in particular, the way modern medicine is portrayed as both a reflection of its time and a future-looking projection. Finally, the third paper, reflects on technology in the novel, in particular the relatively new field of photography, and its implications for social stratification. Looking at reflections of modernity such as philosophical debate, medical science, and photography in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, these three papers engage in a broader discussion about the place of the human as both individual and as part of a broader collective in Dostoevsky’s work and in modern life.
“Can Idiots Become Human?” – Brian Arthur Armstrong, Augusta U
“Modernity and Medicine in The Idiot” – Brian R. Johnson, Macalester College
“‘It’s All One Big Fantasy’: Memory, Identity, and Modernity in The Idiot” – Katya Jordan, Brigham Young U
Discussant: Kate Rowan Holland, U of Toronto (Canada)
Chair: Susan McReynolds, Northwestern U
Tuesday, November 26
Dostoevsky and Philosophy
8:00 to 9:45am, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: 4, Pacific I
In 2002, James 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. In particular, each panelist will focus on the reception of Dostoevsky’s work by Russian philosophers: Mjør and Ceballos will focus on the early twentieth century reception and Ivantsov on the Leningrad Underground of the 1970s and 80s.
“The Making of a Philosopher: Dostoevsky through the Lens of Rozanov, Bulgakov, and Shestov” – Kåre Johan Mjør, Western Norway U of Applied Sciences (Norway)
“Overcoming Existentialism: The Reception of Dostoevsky by the Members of the Leningrad Religious-Philosophical Seminar” – Vladimir Ivantsov, Williams College
“Philospher of the Spirit: Racial Typologies in Merezhkovsky’s L. Tolstoy and Dostoevsky” – Lindsay Marie Ceballos, Lafayette College
Chair: Lyudmila Parts, McGill U (Canada)
Dostoevsky and The Gospel of Luke
10:00 to 11:45am, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: 4, Pacific I
We have seen renewed scholarly interest in the religious and theological dimensions of Dostoevsky’s fiction in the past few decades. It is not surprising that methodological approaches and assumptions vary widely, although one frequent assumption is that Dostoevsky should be read in a Johannine context, whether because of marks he made in his copy of the 1822 edition of the new Russian Synodal Bible or because of the importance of John in Russian Orthodoxy. When other Gospels are cited, they are often used episodically or as part of broader Synoptic context. However, it is the claim of this panel that Luke – author of a Gospel and Acts – warrants special attention because of Luke’s pragmatic approach to issues vital to Dostoevsky, including social justice and the challenge of overcoming enmity with one’s neighbors. Our panelists will each work with Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamzov, and they will focus on the Lukan concern with incarnational realism (Contino), terrestrial time (Parlin), and the neighbor (Wyman).
“The Gospel of Luke and Incarnational realism in The Brothers Karamazov” – Paul Joseph Contino, Pepperdine U
“Luke, Acts, and Active Love: The Validity of Terrestrial Time in The Brothers Karamazov” – Maxwell Parlin, Princeton U
“An Ideal ‘Thou’: The Concept of Neighbor in The Brothers Karamazov” – Alina Wyman, New College of Florida
Discussant: Michael Mikhailovitch Ossorgin VIII, Fordham U
Chair: Michael Mikhailovitch Ossorgin VIII, Fordham U
In Honor of Joseph Frank: Comparative Approaches to Dostoevsky Through the Lens of Belief
12:00 to 1:45pm, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: 4, Pacific I
In this panel, dedicated to the memory of acclaimed Dostoevsky scholar, biographer, and comparatist Joseph Frank (1918-2013), whom most of the panel participants knew personally and whom all panel participants admire and use in their work, panelists employ comparative approaches to examine the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, as focused through the lens of belief. The trained comparatists delivering papers, Arpi Movsesian, Monika Greenleaf, and Sara Pankenier Weld, take a comparative angle to investigating their individual topics of holy foolishness, performance, and theodicy as they juxtapose Dostoevsky’s writings with those of major figures of the Anglophone tradition, namely William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and Vladimir Nabokov. Though united by their shared focus on Dostoevsky, the collective scope of the papers also encompasses a range of periods; genres such as drama, poetry, and prose; and disciplinary approaches, such as religious studies, performance studies, and philosophy – all of which enrich their analysis and the scope of the panel. The papers’ commonalities and shared focus on belief ensures a coherence and cohesiveness to the panel, as does the subsequent discussion guided by the remarks of discussant Martha Kelly, who brings her expertise on religion and poetics to the panel. The comparative scope of the panel and the attention to a broader religious and intellectual context represented by all panelists represents an homage to Joseph Frank, who himself embodied a broadly comparative perspective and a depth of insight into literary, cultural, philosophical, and religious history, as the panel organizer and chair will highlight in a brief introduction.
“Performing Faithfully: Shakespearean Fools in Dostoevsky’s House of the Dead” – Arpi Movesian, UC Santa Barbara
“Two Cruel Talents: The Interplay of Constriction and Kata-Strophe in the Scenic Art of Dickinson and Dostoevsky” – Monika Greenleaf, Stanford U
“Theodicy and Faith in an Ethical Universe: Dostoevsky and Nabokov on the Suffering Child” – Sara Pankenier Weld, UC Santa Barbara
Discussant: Martha M. F. Kelley, U of Missouri
Chair: Sara Pankenier Weld, UC Santa Barbara
Book Discussion: “Approaches to Teaching Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment,” Edited by Michael Katz and Alex Burry
12:00 to 1:45pm, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: 4, Pacific C
A volume of essays is currently in preparation for the MLA Series called Approaches to Teaching (edited by Michael Katz and Alex Burry). This roundtable will allow five of the contributors to share their ideas about how to teach the novel in the college or secondary school classroom. The approaches vary widely. A roundtable will enable the presenters to gain valuable feedback from the audience as they prepare their essays; it will also provide suggestions and ideas to the audience as to how they might approach the book in their various classrooms.
Katherine Bowers, U of British Columbia (Canada)
Kate Rowan Holland, U of Toronto (Canada)
Ani Kokobobo, U of Kansas
Susan McReynolds, Northwestern U
Chair: Michael R. Katz, Middlebury College
Panels Featuring One or More Papers on Dostoevsky
Saturday, November 23
Dark Waters and Monstrous Illusions in Russian Literature and Culture
12:00 to 1:45pm, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: LB2, Salon 12
Literature, film, fine art and other acts of cultural production have long mediated our relationship with landscape. Following Karine Gagne and Mattias Rasmussen’s call for an “amphibious anthropology” that directs our attention to the confluences of land and water (Anthropologica 58: 2, 2017), this panel explores cultural production in the Russian tradition that mediates our relationship to ‘amphibious’ land-and-waterscapes. The papers on the panel, however, add engagement with the dark, the uncanny, the monstrous to this conversation. How does water act as a conduit for the otherworldly and what does this dynamic reveal about amphibious landscapes within the bounds of Russian cultural production?
“Go I Know Not Where, Bring Back I Know Not What: The Russian Folktale in Uncertain Waters” – Barbara Henry, U of Washington
“Watery Creatures: The Fantastic and the City in the Petersburg Text” – Katherine Bowers, U of British Columbia (Canada)
“Making Kin with Swamp Monsters: Zinovieva-Annibal’s ‘Chudovishche’” – Alec Brooks, Memorial U of Newfoundland (Canada)
Brittany Rae Roberts, UC Riverside
Colleen McQuillen, U of Southern California
Chair: Jenny Kaminer, UC Davis
Future Visions, Unseen Dimensions, and Dreamscapes in Russian Literature
4:00 to 5:45pm, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: 5, Sierra G
“‘Novel Voyages’: Fantastical Travel through Time and Space in the Early Nineteenth Century” – Stephen Andrew Bruce, Columbia U
“Of Imaginary Machines and Mundane Futures: Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s Literary Interface and the Perception of Reality through Alternative Literature” – Alejandra Isabel Otero Pires, U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“‘Higher Matter’” The Fourth Dimension in Anderi Bely’s Petersburg” – Olga Zolotareva, Princeton U
“Overcoming Linear Perspective in Dostoevsky’s ‘Dream of a Ridiculous Man’” – Olga Stuchebrukhov, UC Davis
Discussant: Irina M. Erman, College of Charleston
Imperial Culture in the Soviet Imaginary
4:00 to 5:45pm, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: 4, Pacific H
In The House of Government, Yuri Slezkine writes, “The Bolsheviks… ended up raising their children on ideas that were the very opposite of those they wished them to have (or thought they did, some of the time). The parents lived for the future; their children lived in the past.”  Slezkine points to an apparent paradox in the foundation of Soviet culture: those who set about remaking society enthusiastically embraced the literary culture of the previous era. Throughout the existence of the Soviet Union, nineteenth-century literature and culture continued to be incorporated into party-line cultural policy and production, and claimed as an inheritance with equal vigor by the Marxists of Literaturnyi kritik and representatives of the pre-revolutionary intelligentsia, such as Anna Akhmatova. The works and biographies of authors from Pushkin to Dostoevsky to Chernyshevsky were put to a variety of symbolic uses, institutionalized and reconceived in complex ways. This panel will explore the reception and reframing of nineteenth-century culture in the Soviet period in the context of cultural memory, institutions, and ideological texts. Papers will consider the reconfiguration of powerful nineteenth-century cultural concepts such as the “intelligentsia,” as well as the role of memorializing institutions such as literary house museums in shaping cultural memory at different historical moments.
 Yuri Slezkine, The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016), 955.
“The Soviet Masses as Polufabrikat: Grigorii Pomerants and the Meaning of “Intelligentsia” and “Narod” in 1968” – Pavel Khazanov, Rutgers, the State U of New Jersey
“A Space Outside the Present: The Literary House Museum and Memorialization in the Soviet Union” – Brett Roark Winestock, Stanford U
“Reshaping Russian Imaginaries: Literary House Museums in the Post-Soviet Era” – Kathleen Macfie, UNC at Greensboro
Discussant: Christine Elaine Evans, U of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Chair: Ludmilla A. Trigos, Independent Scholar
Soviet Film Adaptations: Soviet-Western Encounters through Film, 1930-1972
4:00 to 5:45pm, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: LB2, Salon 11
This is the first in the series of three panels on film adaptations produced in the Soviet and post-Soviet period, 1930-2017. Our first panel examines Soviet-Western encounters through studying film adaptations made between 1930 and 1972: Soviet film adaptations of Western literature, such as the Soviet Winnie the Pooh, and vice versa, Western attempts to adapt Russian literature to screen, as in the Hollywood adaptation of Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” The panel is interested in the conversion “from foreign to native” system of beliefs that happens in the course of cross-cultural film adaptations. The focus is on the Soviet vs. Western (Disney, Hollywood) divide, and the way film adaptations attempt to bridge cultural gaps.
“Every Sound is Shrill: Sergei Eisenstein, Adaptation, the American Landscape” – Dustin Michael Condern, U of Oklahoma
“Filming the Criminal Mind: Josef von Sternberg’s and Lev Kulidzhanov’s Adaptations of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment” – Rita Safariants, U of Rochester
“Naïve Absurdity in the Soviet Winnie the Pooh” – Sabina Amanbayeva, Oklahoma City U
Discussant: Elena Konstantinovna Murenina, East Carolina U
Chair: Maria Mayofis, NRU Higher School of Economics (Russia)
Sunday, November 24
Expanding the Nineteenth-Century Russian Prose Canon
12:30 to 2:15pm, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: LB2, Salon 12
In recent years, North American scholarship on nineteenth-century Russian prose has become increasingly focused on a shrinking number of authors, namely: Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev, and Goncharov. The aim of this panel is to reintroduce the figures around these “literary giants,” men and women who played an integral role in shaping Russia’s literary landscape. Gabriella Safran’s paper examines Aleksei Pisemskii’s novel People of the 40s to address issues of cultural appropriation and the materiality of print culture. Greta Matzner-Gore looks at the scientific writings of a range of non-canonical writers that had a crucial shaping influence on authors like Gogol, Turgenev, and Dostoevsky. And Anna Berman focuses on the novels of Evgenia Tur to explore how her depictions of courtship, marriage, and the family complicate our ideas about the classic Russian approach to these topics. Together the papers address a variety of Russia’s central literary concerns, demonstrating how expanding the range of authors we consider to more accurately reflect what people were reading in the period gives us a clearer picture of Russia’s literary tradition.
“Aleksei Pisemskii’s People of the 40s, Cultural Appropriation, and Paper” – Gabriella Safran, Stanford U
“The Science of Early Russian Realism” – Greta Nicole Matzner-Gore, U of Southern California
“Evgenia Tur and the Non-Canonical Marriage Plot” – Anna A. Berman, McGill U (Canada)
Discussant: Anna Schur, Keene State College
Chair: Valeria Sobol, U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Nationalizing Russian Literature: How Literary Institutions Shaped the Canon in the 19th Century
4:30 to 6:15pm, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: LB2, Salon 12
This panel, bringing together Russian, European and American scholars, seeks to reestablish the sociological perspective in the studies of 19th-century Russian literature and culture. Using recent theories of nationalism and canon formation, the speakers will explore how various institutions (theatre, book publishing, school, Academy of Sciences) modernized the notion of literature and its practice according to the most cutting-edge ideology of nationalism and unification. The panel also stresses reciprocal and unexpected influences between social and literary institutions.
“Staging Theatre History: The Origin Myth and the Struggle for Autonomy in Russian Imperial Theatre” – Andrey Fedotov, Lomonosov State U (Russia)
“Constructing Russian Nation in the Age of the Great Reforms: Alexander Ostrovsky and the Canon of Russian Drama” – Kirill Zubkov, Higher School of Economics (Russia)
“Classics for All?: Book Publishing and the Popularization of Dostoevsky in Late Imperial Russia” – Raffaella Vassena, U of Milan (Italy)
“How Russian Novel Came to School: Curriculum and Literary Canon in Late Imperial Russia” – Alexey Vdovin, NRU Higher School of Economics (Russia)
Discussant: Jeffrey Peter Brooks, Johns Hopkins U
Chair: William Mills Todd III, Harvard U
Monday, November 25
Cognitive Approaches to Russian Literature II
10:00 to 11:45am, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: LB2, Salon 12
Our panel tests recent findings in cognitive science (psychology and philosophy) by applying them to established works of Russian literature. Inasmuch as these works denote acceptance by wide audiences, they constitute valid data for assessing so-called human universals.
“Rates of Foreign Influence in the Russian Tradition: An Application of Psychology to Literary History” – Tom Dolack, Wheaton College
“Ivan Karamazov’s Fuzzy Feelings: The Cognitive Possibilities for a Non-Euclidean Mind” – Milica Ilicic, Columbia U
“The Cognitive Psychology of Belief, Piety, and Fantasy: From Fictive to Actual Inquisitors, Zealots, and Visionaries” – Jerry Piven, Rutgers, the State U of New Jersey
“Possibilities of Cognitive Approach to Biographical and Historical Novels of Evgeny Vodolazkin” – Amina Gabrielova, Purdue U
Discussant: Brett Cooke, Texes A&M U
Chair: David Powelstock, Brandeis U
Violence, Crime, and Suicide: The Ethics of Representation in Tolstoy and Dostoevsky
3:45 to 5:30pm, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: 4, Pacific I
Scholars across disciplines have increasingly turned to exploring the ethical implications of literary forms of representation as a way of reexamining traditional narrative categories. The study of the intersection of narrative and ethics has produced many works that question the essentially positive value of fiction-reading, or that investigate the possible encounters novels enable with lives different than our own. Focusing on the representations of suicide, trials, and violence, this panel seeks to bring the Russian nineteenth-century novel into this conversation by examining the intersections of narrative and ethics in the works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, who stand out for their use of literary forms to question and explore the implications of the ethics of their fiction.
“Dostoevsky and Thanatotic Contagion” – Amy D. Ronner, St. Thomas U
“Fictional Defendants and Real Readers: The Ethics of Literary Trials” – Erica Stone Drennan, Columbia U
“‘Что ж, хоть и чужой, все надо жалость иметь’: The Ethics of Representing Alterity in Early Tolstoy” – Thomas Dyne, UC Berkeley
Alex Spektor, U of Georgia
Deborah A. Martinsen, Columbia U
Chair: Irina Paperno, UC Berkeley
Tuesday, November 26
Post-Soviet Film Adaptations: Redefining Russian and Soviet Literary Classics in 1990-early 2000s
10:00 to 11:45am, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: LB2, Salon 11
This is the second in the series of three panels on film adaptations produced in the Soviet and post-Soviet period, 1930-2017. Our second panel focuses on the renewed attempt to re-interpret Russian and Soviet classics through film adaptations in the post-Soviet period, 1992-2015. The panel shows how post-Soviet filmmakers approached time-honored Russian literature by Pushkin and Dostoevsky, and the Soviet classic, “Quiet Flows the Don” by Mikhail Sholokhov, and re-interpreted these works for the new, post-Soviet period. The papers examine new beliefs about history and the canon implicit in the filmmakers’ revisions and also trace new film techniques in the updated films.
“Making of a Dream: An Animated Film Adaptation of Dostoevsky’s ‘The Dream of a Ridiculous Man’” – Irina Karlsohn, Dalarna U (Sweden) / Uppsala U (Sweden)
“Proshkin’s Post-Soviet Projection of Pushkin’s Prose: Catherine the Great in the film ‘Russkii Bunt’” – Amanda Fairchild Murphy, Nazarbayev U (Kazakhstan)
“Reclaiming Soviet Classics: Desire for Repetition or Change?” – Irina Makoveeva, Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE)
Discussant: Milla (Lioudmila) Fedorova, Georgetown U
Chair: Sabina Amanbayeva, Oklahoma City U
Cosmic Dreams and Communal Nightmares: Russian Science Fiction and Horror
12:00 to 1:45pm, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: 5, Sierra G
This panel explores the spaces and influences of 20th-21st century Russian science fiction and horror literature: from the utopian dreams of space exploration and collective world-building to their nightmarish disintegration within the Soviet kommunalka and into post-Soviet reality. The first paper discusses the phenomenon of collective vampirism within the utopian society on Mars in Bogdanov’s “Red Star.” The second paper analyzes Petrushevskaya’s engagement with Poe in her short story “Chocolates with Liqueur” as a manifestation of what the author terms the domestic gothic. Finally, the third paper notes the influences of Russian Cosmism on Pelevin’s parodic revisioning of the Soviet space race in “Omon Ra.”
“Communal Vampirism in Alexander Bogdanov’s ‘Red Star’” – Irina M. Erman, College of Charleston
“Transforming Poe and the Domestic Gothic in Petrushevskaya’s ‘Chocolates with Liqueur’” – Meghan Vicks, U of Colorado at Boulder
“Viktor Pelevin’s ‘Omon Ra’ and Russian Cosmism – Ritsuko Kidera, Doshisha U (Japan)
Chair: Oksana Husieva, U of Kansas
Thanks to Vadim Shneyder, North American Dostoevsky Society Readers Advisory Board member and Assistant Professor at UCLA, for compiling the list!