The Double Gets a Double: Dostoevsky Student Rotten Tomato Reviews

Students in Greta Matzner-Gore’s course Literature and Philosophy: Dostoevsky at the University of Southern California reviewed Richard Ayoade’s 2013 adaptation of The Double. Here are some excerpts of their work.

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——————–Movie Info——————–

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“Eisenberg plays Simon, a timid, isolated man who’s overlooked at work, scorned by his mother, and ignored by the woman of his dreams (Wasikowska). The arrival of a new co-worker, James (also played by Eisenberg), serves to upset the balance. James is both Simon’s exact physical double and his opposite—confident, charismatic and good with women. To Simon’s horror, James slowly starts taking over his life” (https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_double_2013).

 

——–Critic Reviews for The Double———

1.5/5 stars 

This Movie Makes Me Feel Like Golyadkin

By Leo Houts

The Double by Dostoyevsky is funny, self-aware, and centered around Golyadkin, an idiosyncratic civil servant who is gradually driven insane by issues both in his psyche and his environment. It is called The Double because Golyadkin meets a person with the same facial features, name, and even clothes as himself. This double (Golyadkin Jr.) begins working at the same place Golyadkin does, and is more successful both socially and in work.

The Double by Richard Ayoade, on the other hand, is neither funny nor self-aware. It sacrifices the humor of Golyadkin’s pathetic character for an awkward antihero with a love interest (Simon) played by Jesse Eisenberg. Eisenberg plays Simon with the same confidence that Golyadkin Jr. has, maybe because like Golyadkin Jr., Eisenberg’s character is the exact double of a pre-existing person, in this case every past role Eisenberg has ever had. […]

If you are the kind of person who enjoys indie films about shy antiheroes, maybe you will like this film. If you are the kind of person who likes good writing and acting, you probably will not. If you are a fan of the original work by Dostoyevsky, I am sorry.”

 

3/5 Stars

“Richard Ayoade’s The Double is Great But It’s Not the Book, Literally”

By Lauren Foley

“The uncanny riddles Richard Ayoade’s film adaptation of ​The Double,​ transforming the classic Fyodor Dostoevsky novel into an otherworldly mix of science-fiction, horror, and dark comedy. Although foundationally similar, tonally, Ayoade creates a new beast from Dostoevsky’s original work, fracturing what Dostoevsky fans have come to know and love from the original work. With new character names, settings, and plot points (amongst other changes), ​The Double​ has been through quite a transformation on its way to the screen. […]

Ultimately, if you are a fan of the novella you might be able to gain something from the film– you just might not like it all that much. But, on its own, it’s worth a watch for its impeccable set design, world building, plotting, and performance by Jesse Eisenberg. You might just not be as fond of the editing, and Mia Wasikowska’s performance. Nonetheless, I recommend you give it a try– at least just to have some fun.”

The Double’s Double

By Connor Valore-Kemmerer

“They say if your doppelganger ever appears that you’re doomed to die; Dostoevsky’s novella The Double finds itself in this situation with the release of a film called The Double, directed by Richard Ayoade. You might say a book can’t die, though try googling “The Double” and look at the results—I’ll bet most of them are related to Ayoade’s adaption, not the novella. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as either the movie captures the themes and ideas of the novella, or you don’t value what the novella has to offer. Given that we’re fans of Dostoevsky, however, we’ll assume the ideas of the novella are worth passing down, meaning it can only be replaced if those ideas are preserved. Does Ayoade’s adaption do this? The short answer is yes and no. […]

If it was only inspired by Dostoevsky’s The Double, I would praise it for inspiring viewers to seek out the original ideas that motivated its creation. Like in the novella, however, Dostoevsky’s The Double finds itself being replaced by Ayoade’s The Double, and while this would be fine if the cores were the same, the similarities are mostly skin deep. The “personality” of the film is preferred by society over the “personality” of the novella, which is at risk of being discarded. As someone who values this original “personality,” I have to give Ayoade’s The Double a rating of 3 stars, not because it fails as a film, but because it fails as a proper adaption. An excerpt of a poem by Marie Laurencin feels appropriate: More than exiled, dead; more than dead, forgotten.”

 

3.5/5 Stars

The Double”: An Adaptation Lost in Translation?

By Ashwin Bhumbla

“Fans of the original will be delighted by the sense of place Ayoade gives to the film, an effort that lives up to the gloriously laid out setting of the novella. The sickly greens and dull yellows of the office building, the dim, grey apartments, the unrelenting darkness of the movie’s unnamed city are all definitely not St. Petersburg, but the similarities are there. We see the “messy green walls of [Golyadkin’s] little room” reflected in the hallways of the data company. The “murky, grey autumnal day” of the novella’s beginning is instead replaced by near constant darkness. While the minimalist design almost certainly is owed in part to budget constraints, it proves to be the appropriate artistic choice. A standout scene of the film is when we see Simon’s room for the first time. As he walks in we hear the door creak. We can hear and feel the constant shaking of the walls of his cramped, under-furnished apartment. The faucet shudders and moans as he pours out water into a dusty glass and that cup is the only thing we see him partake in as he watches a television show on the tiniest TV screen known to man, perhaps a modern replacement for Golyadkin’s own “small round mirror” […] The ending, like that of the original, will leave viewers scratching heads and discussing for some time. Ayoade is to be commended, taking a story one might think is unadaptable and not just adapting the plot, but adapting the feel and presence of the novella into an entirely different medium and work of art all his own.”

#NotMyGolyadkin: A Review of The Double (2013)

By Maria Camasmie

“A fan of the novella would notice quite quickly, from the first scene even, that Simon James is by no means comparable to our beloved Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin. As a fan myself, I was most delighted by The Double’s profoundly perplexing main character, Mr. Golyadkin—his paranoia, his delusions of grandeur, his obsession with status, and of course, his bizarre propensity to hide in corners. Simon James is an ordinary man in a bizarre world, while Golyadkin is a bizarre man in an ordinary world. […]

[T]he fundamental difference between the two protagonists generates a fundamental difference between the works themselves—where the original novella navigates a man’s complex and often irrational relationship with his own personality and the world around him, the film adaptation explores the reactions of a helpless, ordinary man to inexplicable events brought onto him by the outside world. Though the storylines are similar, the experience of the original novella is much more internal, while the film adaptation only scratches the surface.”

5/5 stars

How Ayoade Put Dostoevsky’s Classic in a Time Machine

By Blake Amann

“Ayoade’s adaption of Dostoevsky’s novella The Double is an extremely innovative way of translating Dostoevsky’s environment from the page to the screen and modernizing the central philosophical question of struggling with one’s identity. Ayoade’s picture, also called The Double, brilliantly employs a very dystopian-like setting in order to match the rigid, bureaucratic society that was present in the life of Golyadkin in St. Petersburg. The setting’s boring coloration and strict organization in the office area spotlights the ideal of fitting in and matching societal expectations that is key to social success in 19th century St. Petersburg. Additionally, Ayoade’s film takes place in a city that has no daylight, drawing even more parallel to the dark mood of St. Petersburg, which Dostoevsky describes in his novella as ‘pregnant with colds, agues, quinsies, gumboils, and fevers of every conceivable shape and size.’”

 

A Mad, Mad World

By Skyler Melnick

“Am I asleep? Am I dreaming?” Dostoevsky’s protagonist asks himself upon peering at his double (49). Throughout the manic stream of the novella, Golyadkin wavers, doubts, suffers, and fantasizes, feeling as though he is “neither dead nor alive, but somewhere in between” (23). In a similar fashion, Richard Ayoade’s film adaptation, ​The Double​ (2013), cultivates an absurd, dreamlike tone of inbetweenness through the use of constant oppressive noises, disorienting lighting, deadpan dialogue, and a hurried protagonist trying to catch up with a fast-paced environment. These visual and formulaic choices generate a similar manic, dreamlike tone to that of Dostoevsky’s novella, but reverse the core thematic essence from an unraveling man to a more stable, albeit troubled man in a deranged society. I give the film five twinkling stars on account of its superb sustained tone, an unusual pairing of bleakness with whimsy. It deviates from the novella in its thematic reversal, but retains the essence of madness and bleakness, resulting in a surprising, yet timeless translation: a piece of inbetweenness, a film where dream and reality, death and life, a man and his shadow are not separated, but swing back and forth like a pendulum, intertwined, leaving the viewer both shocked and empathizing.”

Twitterature in the Dostoevsky Classroom

by Katherine Bowers

The following blog post emerged from a roundtable on “Teaching Dostoevsky in the 21st Century” organized by Daniel Brooks at the 2019 AATSEEL conference in New Orleans. This is the fourth in a series of posts by roundtable participants. The first three posts in the series can be found here, here, and here.

My adventure with Twitterature began three years ago, when I began to work with the North American Dostoevsky Society as their social media curator. I began a twitter account for the society, and it quickly took off. Throughout 2015 we had some success with contests that aimed to engage our followers and encourage them to join an online conversation about Dostoevsky. There was a humor contest, a hoodie design competition, a quote competition— and all of these events were great, boosted membership, and really helped us create a kind of community, but there was one issue. We wanted to engage not just with the kind of commercial idea of Dostoevsky, but with Dostoevsky’s works on a deeper level, and these kinds of contests were fun but they didn’t really do that. This is where the question that framed my AATSEEL talk and this blog post really begins: social media is useful for sharing information, community building, and public engagement – but can it enhance the study of literature? And, if yes, how?

In fall 2015, the North American Dostoevsky Society staged an online event. #TheDoubleEvent was centered around Dostoevsky’s 1846 novella, and aimed to get people talking about the text itself. The idea was that we would encourage people to read the novel and post reflections on it to our social media. This group read would lead up to a screening of The Double, the 2013 Richard Ayoade film adaptation of the novel, which would take place on multiple campuses. We wanted to connect people reading the novel and watching the film via Facebook and Twitter. The reflections were kind of a bust – as you can probably imagine, the only people who wrote them were my students, who I bribed with extra credit. Alongside them we had people write posts on Bloggers Karamazov (Gender Trouble in The Double, Gothic Doubling or The Double Gothically, and Golyadkin’s Human Shriek), our then newly launched blog – these were well received, and helped give the event a bit more depth. The film screening and live tweet event was great, and showed us the power of twitter for connecting people in a meaningful way. But perhaps more important to the development of my narrative is the fact that, as a way of engaging with the text and promoting the event, we, Brian Armstrong and I, decided to tweet the novel from its hero, Golyadkin’s, perspective… And this brings us to the topic of Twitterature, that is the creation or representation of a literary text through the Twitter format.

@YakovGolyadkin focused on just Golyadkin’s perspective. The real key to the project was Brian’s finding of Golyadkin’s voice. Brian interpreted the twitter feed to be a kind of monologue, as if Golyadkin had a secret device in his pocket that enabled him to record everything, all his thoughts and events. This enabled him to tweet with some sense of narrative arc, and improvise away from the text a bit, but keep in character. Finding Golyadkin’s voice enabled the feed to emphasize the key ideas of the novel, but, at the same time, to allow them to blend into the mundane everyday details of the feed. It also enabled the separation of Golyadkin’s voice/perspective from that of the narrator, an interesting extraction that enabled new readings of the novel. When I teach Dostoevsky, I assign my students to read the novel, and also invite them to read the @YakovGolyadkin Twitter feed (which is preserved on Wakelet and archived on Humanities Commons). They invariably respond well to @YakovGolyadkin. The singling out of Golyadkin’s voice and the timeline embedded in the preserved Twitter account helps with adding more framework to the confusing novel. However, beyond that, I was interested to learn that @YakovGolyadkin enabled them to read the novel differently. Several students reported that they felt much more sympathy for Golyadkin after reading the Twitter feed; they could see how lonely he was. His loneliness exists in the novel, but is difficult to discern through the voice of the narrator and the antics of his double. Similarly, Brian commented that he hadn’t realized how obsessed with prestige Golyadkin was until working on the project. This project showed us the value of digitally reading and recreating a text through Twitter, and we began planning for a grander twitter project attached to a large celebration of the 150th anniversary of Crime and Punishment that Kate Holland and I were organizing…. And @RodionTweets was born.

We decided to transpose Crime and Punishment into Twitter for the 150th anniversary because we saw it as an exciting new way of reading the novel. To mine the novel for tweets, you have to do incredibly close reading of the text, picking up on nuance and minute shifts in the protagonist’s feelings. Although Dostoevsky originally had begun the novel in the first person, Crime and Punishment is written in the third person, and there are many scenes that Raskolnikov never witnesses. Similarly, some context is required, and so the omniscient narrator’s voice must, at times, be transposed into the first person and into Raskolnikov’s voice. The mediation of these voices in the text makes for an intensive reading experience, and reproducing them into one coherent (or sometimes not so coherent, but always believable) voice was difficult. Assigning a project to students that requires them to mine the text, analyze it on a structural and narrative level, and interpret it to some degree to produce tweets is a wonderful exercise in close reading and one that I will explore closer here with some insight from our own experience doing this.

Our project was complicated by the fact that six different scholars were mining the six different parts of the novel. Even when we are all working from the same translation of the same text, we each approached the task a different way. Kate Holland’s tweets are more sprawling stream-of-consciousness, while Jennifer Wilson’s are very succinct. Kristina McGuirk, my ace RA, had a difficult task in trying to create a single Twitter persona out of them, but found that the Twitter medium helped this task as it required concision and some attention to hashtags. Hashtags seemed somewhat anachronistic, but several of the team members commented afterwards that hashtags proved useful in rendering the text from one person’s point of view. Sarah Hudspith wrote afterwards:

“At the earliest stages of envisaging the novel, Dostoevsky described in a letter to the editor Katkov his plan to write a story about a young man falling under the influence of “strange, ‘unfinished’ ideas afloat in the atmosphere” and committing a murder. I saw that the use of hashtags created a certain emphasis when added to words, and I felt that this would nicely suggest ideas and concepts afloat in the Twittersphere that were preying on Raskolnikov’s mind, even at an unconscious level. In this way, I could highlight the obvious #crime, but also #soul, #sacrifice, #fate and even #deadbody, adding a possibility of a double reading to the exclamation “Over my #deadbody!”

Beyond these questions of voice, there were questions of representation as well, and how the text would best (and most believably) be represented in Twitter format. Sarah Hudspith struggled with whether and to what degree to livetweet the murder, which is minutely detailed in the text, and I was confounded by delirious wandering. Yet, although these moments were confounding, they were also illuminating in that they forced us to think through places in the text in new ways. On livetweeting the murder, Sarah decided to do it in the end, but the decision prompted her to think more about the nature of social media and its meaning for searching for personal meaning:

“We live in an age where many people feel compelled to broadcast their lives online, to create a narrative of themselves which can become more real than the intimate, offline self. Raskolnikov is a character searching for an identity for himself: is he an intellectual, a philanthropist, a pioneer of a new morality, a sensualist, a beloved son and brother, a criminal? What parallels could be drawn between his anguished self-seeking, when put into the context of a Twitter account, and the contemporary mediation of personal identity? Further, social media are increasingly platforms for the propagation of ideologies and their distillation into ever more extreme forms, indeed are sadly the venue for publicising horrific crimes in the name of a so-called ‘new word’.”

These questions of public/private are opened only by reading the novel through Twitter; they are relevant, and important in tying the novel to our 21st-century experience, but they don’t come naturally to a text set in the 19th century.

In addition to reading alongside as I assign my students to do with @YakovGolyadkin and The Double or tweet mining themselves as I have just discussed, Kate Holland has also suggested one classroom activity that would work well with the feed (her students have done this several times): they read a section of the novel and the corresponding section of @RodionTweets, then write a series of tweets from another character that respond to Raskolnikov and the situation. In this way, they are given a small taste of intensive close reading and are encouraged to come to a better understanding of at least one character’s motivations and feelings. For Dostoevsky, who used his characters’ reactions and voices to such good narrative effect, I think twitterature in this sense opens up new avenues to understanding human nature in the classroom and beyond.

And a small public service message: both @YakovGolyadkin and @RodionTweets are preserved as a Wakelet (@YakovGolyadkin, @RodionTweets) and on Humanities Commons (@YakovGolyadkin, @RodionTweets pt 1, @RodionTweets pt 2) for use in the classroom in the future or for interested readers who stumble upon it online.


Katherine Bowers is an Assistant Professor of Slavic Studies at the University of British Columbia. Her publications include the recent co-edited collection A Dostoevskii Companion: Texts and Contexts (2018). She edits Bloggers Karamazov and curates the Society’s social media. She can also be found on twitter @kab3d

Rodion Raskolnikov, Your Tweet Archive is Ready

by Katherine Bowers

Two years ago, on May 1, 2016, the Twitter account @RodionTweets sent its first tweet. Since then @RodionTweets has “live-tweeted” the events of Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment, broken into 140-character-or-less snippets, from its hero Raskolnikov’s perspective. The bulk of the novel’s events take place over the course of three intense weeks in the summer, and the bulk of Rodion Raskolnikov’s tweets similarly appeared in July 2016, but the account has continued to tweet the book’s epilogues, which spread over the course of nearly two years. Finally, on April 24, 2018, Raskolnikov’s new life began and the twitter account went silent.
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@RodionTweets was the brainchild of myself and Brian Armstrong, a kind of extension of our first experiment with Twitterature, @YakovGolyadkin. Both accounts were created through a process of tweet mining. For @RodionTweets we received permission from Penguin Classics to use Oliver Ready’s translation of Crime and Punishment. Then one Dostoevsky scholar mined one of the novel’s six parts and Kristina McGuirk, my wonderful RA, did a round of edits and loaded the tweets into TweetDeck, scheduling them in to tweet out according to the timeline for the novel that Brian and I had mapped.

Rodiontweets-end-2As each part of the novel was tweeted out, we reflected on our experience in creating the tweets in a series of blog posts. Sarah Hudspith mined Part 1 and reflected on the divide between public and private online and the use of hashtags as a narrative device. In her discussion of mining Part 2, Sarah Young considered the way digital approaches to the novel (tweeting, digital mapping) expand our avenues for understanding and interpretation. Kate Holland’s experience mining Part 3 led to a new perspective on the novel’s narrative structure. Brian Armstrong discussed the insight he gained into empathy in both Crime and Punishment, Part 4 and The Double through the intensely close scrutiny tweet mining requires. Jennifer Wilson’s mining of the scandal scene in Part 5 led to her reflection on social status and projection, and how pain, humiliation and suffering impact them. And my experience mining Part 6 and the epilogues led to a new realization on my part about timing in the novel. The blog post you’re reading serves as the project’s final, final note: one last reflection on what we’ve learned from @RodionTweets.

Of course, the first thing we, as literary scholars, noticed was that twitterifying Dostoevsky raised a number of questions that made us see the novel’s narration and themes in a new light. You’ll notice this from the blog post topics above. We began, however, with a basic question: how do you break a novel that’s narrated in the 3rd person down into tweets in the first person? Where does the narrator’s voice go? The switch from 3rd person narration to 1st reverses Dostoevsky’s own narrative switch from the 1st person he originally planned on to the 3rd person the novel ended up with.

Rodiontweets-end-3One of the conceits of the project is that Raskolnikov tweets as if he keeps a constant feed of everything that goes through his head. This, of course, means that the account presupposes that no one else from the novel world is reading it. For example, Raskolnikov live tweets the murder on @RodionTweets, and if Porfiry Petrovich were to read this in his Twitter feed, the novel would likely have been much, much shorter! – although this point is well taken. This style also renders @RodionTweets more like those Dostoevsky protagonists who monologue or write zapiski and less like most (active) twitter users, who may do this kind of live-tweeting some of the time, but not all of the time. Furthermore, as we mined the novel’s text for tweets, thinking critically about what would be omitted from the twitter narrative and what would be emphasized, as well as what Raskolnikov would be tweeting about, we created a feed that both captures the novel’s tone and renders the work more real-feeling, or, at least, more contemporary.

This contemporaneity was a really unexpected yet rewarding result of @RodionTweets. Beyond the experience of Raskolnikov’s tweets periodically appearing in his followers’ twitter feeds, the serendipity of their timing or placement allowed for connections to be drawn between followers’ lived experiences and Dostoevsky’s novel. Followers remarked on the eeriness of @RodionTweets juxtaposed with twitter updates about the Turkish coup attempt or the odd resonance between @RodionTweets and the mood of many in post-Brexit Britain. One of the strangest coincidences was that Raskolnikov’s monologue leading to his confession took place at the same time as Trump’s speech at the RNC in Cleveland on July 21, prompting a flood of comments from followers experiencing the two feeds – RNC live tweeters and @RodionTweets – together; here are a few examples. While unintended when we conceived the project, these juxtapositions highlight the power of Dostoevsky’s novel and speak to the relevance of his hero’s psychology for the present.

The project, though, was not all serious. Beyond the geopolitical resonances and the literary analysis, it is a project based in Twitter, a medium that’s equally political squabbling and entertaining puns, jokes, and sarcasm. The spirit of the project is one part Dostoevsky, one part Twitterature, and it also encompasses @RodionTweets’s love of strange hashtags and sublime Twitter moments such as a Dostoevsky account interacting with his creation or a Shostakovich account liking some of @RodionTweets’s tweets. Or this, my favorite follower interaction with the account, which continues to crack me up nearly two years later.

So what now? We have archived the project here: @RodionTweets, parts 1-3; @RodionTweets, parts 4-6 + epilogues. The archives are complete and tweets within them appear in chronological order (so you can read them alongside the book). They have already been used in the classroom by some. Professors assign students to read part of the novel alongside the corresponding tweets and then discuss, or to generate their own tweets from a different character’s perspective (this last idea is an assignment Kate Holland has implemented in her Dostoevsky class). If you are using the project in your class, please let me know!

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At the end of my blog post about tweeting Part 6, I concluded by saying that the epilogues on Twitter would be spread across 18 months and then Raskolnikov would fade away. Now, though, I think that statement needs some revising. The spring of 2018 feels far removed in many ways from the summer of 2016. Much has happened since then. But I think the drawn-out nature of the epilogue, and Raskolnikov sporadically appearing in our feeds, has perhaps made it seem more like he is one of us – a Twitter user who is sometimes active (the conceit being he somehow manages to get online from his Siberian prison camp…), but more often not. And perhaps this silence is simply because his life is full and he hasn’t got time for social media. In this sense, although @RodionTweets has gone quiet, I hope he is not forgotten, but lingers on as part of our network, somewhere on the edge of our consciousness.


Katherine Bowers is Assistant Professor of Slavic Studies at the University of British Columbia. She is working on a book about the influence of gothic fiction on Russian realism and tweets about Russian lit and other things on @kab3d. She also edits Bloggers Karamazov and curates the North American Dostoevsky Society’s social media.

This post has been cross-posted on All the Russias, the blog of the NYU Jordan Center.

On Golyadkin, Raskolnikov, and the Search for Empathy

by Brian Armstrong

Brian Armstrong is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Augusta University. He works on the intersection of philosophy and literature, and his current project focuses on the philosophical implications of Dostoevsky’s fiction. He masterminded @YakovGolyadkin last fall during #TheDoubleEvent. You can find him on Twitter under the handle @wittstrong.

As I begin to write this post about @RodionTweets, I realize that the details of the origin of the project are a bit murky. It emerged from one of many brainstorming sessions that Katia Bowers and I had at the start of the Fall 2015 semester for social and digital media projects for The North American Dostoevsky Society. We were interested in creating an event related to Richard Ayoade’s The Double, an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s 1846 novel of the same name. We were planning a simultaneous viewing on multiple campuses, and Twitter would play a key role in promoting the event and enabling viewers to communicate during it. Our brainstorming also kept looking ahead to #CP150 and the idea of tweeting Crime and Punishment arose. I’d always been interested in what the novel would’ve looked like if Dostoevsky had stuck to his original idea of writing it from the first-person and tweeting the novel might give us some sense of that. We decided that tweeting The Double would be a good test run: it’s much shorter and almost entirely centered on its central character, Yakov Golyadkin. Katia, her RA Kristina McGuirk, and I set it up so that the tweeting ran for four days in November – as in the novel – and then, on the fifth day, the film viewing took place, with Yakov tweeting from his own account.

The project was valuable for many reasons. Firstly, it promoted awareness of Dostoevsky and of the Society (which exists to further study of Dostoevsky). From a scholarly perspective, the extremely careful reading that the process required gave rise to new insights on the work. Sarah Young noted this in her earlier post: “The result of that process, for me, has been closer readings than I have ever done before, and these have revealed all sorts of details that I have never previously noticed.” I certainly found this to be the case with The Double, too. I would imagine that some of my insights are not new – they’ve been noted somewhere in the vast secondary literature – but that doesn’t make them less important for the individual reader, whether a student or scholar. I’m also still sorting out to what extent any of the insights are connected to the use of Twitter as a hermeneutic tool: the act of converting a fictional voice into Twitter clearly seems to shed a unique light on the original text, but how does it do that?

One of the things that especially struck me with respect to tweeting The Double was a certain lightness and vivacity in Yakov that I’d always missed before. He seemed wittier, more earnest – more like he saw himself and like he maybe was (granting that he really isn’t at all but is, rather, a literary construct). I have my own theory of why this is, and it’s twofold. First, it seems to me that Yakov was struggling with the reality of trying to move up in a meritocratic world that wasn’t really, it turned out, so meritocratic (a struggle that makes him a bit more relatable for the modern reader than his slide into dementia). Second, the narrator, who is not Yakov but like another double, is always there watching over his shoulder, observing and commenting and making inferences about what Yakov is feeing, but is not entirely empathetic. Thus, in stripping away the narrator, a greater possibility for empathy opens up. If this is so, I’m not entirely sure yet why it is so, although I suspect that it’s because of how the narrator navigates his presentation of Yakov with his presentation of others, who seem to judge Yakov. The narrative voice also leaves us in a state of intense epistemological uncertainty, so that we end up suspicious of Yakov. Once that suspicion is gone, we can more authentically draw nigh.

In order to see how things would compare in the case of Rodion and Crime and Punishment, I wanted to keep things the same. This meant that I, um, broke one of the @RodionTweets rules: as Sarah noted in her post, “the general consensus […] was that he probably wouldn’t tweet during conversations, but would give his thoughts on them after the event.” But is not the first rule of @RodionTweets Club that one must #stepover the rules? In any case, I did assume that Rodion tweeted during conversations, as this was what we did with Yakov. It seemed to make sense for Yakov; who knows what’s really happening with him, right? And one can imagine the seemingly socially awkward Yakov tweeting as he talks (or tweeting talks that are not actually happening). But with CP, things are different. The narrative voice is not fully centered on Rodion – and this was very much by design for Dostoevsky. We might well ask what purpose those strategic shifts from Rodion have. And, ideally, Twitter should help us to answer that question. I believe that it was Gary Rosenshield who first began tackling this question back in the 1970s; perhaps we can meaningfully extend his insights with this new tool.

In order to justify my approach a bit more fully, I gave it a name: “higher twitter realism,” intended to echo Dostoevsky’s claim that his own writing is a form of “higher realism.” Whether or not it’s at all an appropriate label, I nonetheless operated with the assumption that Rodion’s tweeting was like an extension of his thoughts, including his perceptions of what others are saying. Could he possibly tweet things discretely as he’s talking to another person? I would assume not. But “live tweeting” these conversations did serve the purpose of providing a faithful version of the narrative that’s stripped of a narrative voice, including a third-person account of what others are doing and saying.

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Naftali Rakuzin’s illustration of Crime and Punishment (used with permission)

Part IV seems like an appropriate Part for this. Sarah Young’s note on Part IV in her Mapping St. Petersburg shows why: “An even greater contraction is evident here. The entire part consists of conversations and interviews, and there is notably no reference, beyond stating that movement between one building and another took place, to anything happening en route. Even though one of the interviews is located in a public office, the police station, Petersburg as a public city and a landscape seems to have all but disappeared here.” Thus, we find that, although Raskolnikov is moving about the city, one would hardly realize it: we’re almost always in the midst of conversations. And, interestingly, Rodion’s failure to register the city around him was not because, as we see at other times, he’s lost in thought; rather, it’s because he’s almost always talking to someone in Part IV: Svidrigailov, Razumikhin, his family, Sonya, and then Luzhin. It’s an intensely discursive section of the novel, and the key players in his transformation are all there.

So what results? A few things stand out for me at present. First, Rodion seems more unmoored, more locked in his own head. This seems especially the case in the final two chapters of Part IV. Granted, this is likely the effect of having Rodion tweet not just his own thoughts but also what others are saying. At times, and especially at first, I tried to have him demarcate his thoughts from his speech and his speech from the speech of others by having him tweet “I said x” or “S/he said x.” But this grew tiresome, and it seemed to me, as I moved along, that there’d be no real need from him to make these distinctions: whether he said it or thought it, or whether he or another said it, would be less important that the thoughts – the propositions expressed or those that he can infer (and often does) from what’s expressed. (He’s highly inferential.) The result is that, at times, one might not be able to tell in the Twitter feed what is said versus thought, or what is uttered by him versus uttered by another like Svidrigailov or Porfiry.

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Naftali Rakuzin’s illustration to Crime and Punishment (used with permission)

This leads to the second point, one that I didn’t really think about until, a few days after finishing my portion of the project, I heard Dr. Carol Apollonio’s keynote at the June 2016 International Dostoevsky Symposium. She raised the question of the ontological status of the other characters, asking: granted that the text is words and not real, why do we attribute the ontolgocial status to aspects of the text as we do? Carol noted that Raskolnikov slips invisibly about while inside his head but surrounded by others, and we, as readers, enter this suspended state. Transposing Raskolnikov’s voice into Twitter, I think, heightens our awareness of this state. Carol also asked us how, for instance, we really know that Rodion really overheard a student and an officer in a tavern. In The Double, it would have been much more clear that the ontological status of the event should be questioned by the reader; Twitter brings out this ontological tension that Carol notes. Carol noted that deciding what is actually happening in “interpretation in the indicative mode,” and she urged us to remain in the uncertainty as we engage in our interpretive activity.

Extending Carol’s insight raises new questions. How do we know that the conversation in Porfiry’s office happens just as the narrator reports? Why do we not question whether it’s all in R’s head? Stripped of any certainty that Porfiry’s there, it seems like it really could be an internal debate of the sort that plagues Rodion. He arrives at the station and no one notices him; we watch as his thoughts and feeling shift, until suddenly he decides that he’s ready to face Porfiry. The next two sentences might make an uncertain reader suspicious: “At that very moment he was called in to see Porfiry Petrovich. Porfiry Petrovich, it turned out, was alone [был у себя в кабинете один]” (310). This emphasis on the ‘lone’ drives the next two chapters (and I’d never noticed how frequently words with the root одн- [one, lone] occur in Part IV, Chapter 5 alone).

While I’m inclined to think that, within the fictive reality of the novel, the conversation really did take place, it’s certainly interesting to wonder if the reason people look at him differently after he leaves the office is that he just entered an empty office, freaked out, and is now leaving.

But now we have another question: What in particular gives Porfiry ontological weight beyond just being another voice woven dialogically into Rodion’s thought? I think that that’s an actual question that Dostoevsky sought to raise, and – to offer another suspicion – I suspect that it’s part of what he’s after in his move toward wider-ranging POVs in his novel. It’s as if, having worked to build the tools by which to more fully articulate the consciousness of another person, he now needs to give weight back to the realities outside the consciousness of those individuals.

It also seems to me that Rodion in Twitter form would draw less empathy than Yakov in Twitter form. So where did the empathy go? It’s almost as if it left with those others who are cut out of Twitter – with those “real” people who seem to truly value Rodion, to see something good in him, to fight for him. If we are left only inside Rodion’s head, we can lose sight of that – of a potential and value in Rodion that Rodion himself can’t quite see. As Kate Holland put it in her post on Part III, “We are trapped instead in Raskolnikov’s monomania. While we trace the vacillations of his self-deception and self-revelation, those psychological developments are never embedded into a broader moral or social context.” If I combine my question with Kate’s observation, a possible inference is that the reality that is left out of an exclusive focus on Rodion’s consciousness is the one to which others seek to open him and is this source of their empathy for him: the moral, which, for Dostoevsky, is also real.


This is part 4 of a series of posts on the experience of creating @RodionTweets. You can follow the Twitter account here. The introduction to the series is here. Click here to read Part 3, and here to go on to Part 5. More information about the #CP150 project can be found here.

The illustrations are by Naftali Rakuzin, and appear with his kind permission. He has also given permission to use an image of one of his illustrations for @RodionTweets. More of his illustrations of Crime and Punishment can be found on his website.

This post has been cross-posted on All the Russias blog.

Gothic Doubling and The Double, Gothically

by Katherine Bowers

Katherine Bowers is an Assistant Professor of Slavic Studies at the University of British Columbia. “Gothic Doubling and The Double, Gothically” is part of #TheDoubleEvent, and cross-posted from All the Russias, the blog of the NYU Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia, with their permission.

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As the bells begin to toll the midnight hour, Mr. Golyadkin is crossing the Fontanka in a terrible storm. St. Petersburg comes alive: black waters rise up against the embankments and howling winds gust through the streets. This soundscape also includes piercing squeaks from rattling lanterns and a gurgling backdrop from the heavy rain. Even this rain is ominous, “cutting and stinging Mr. Golyadkin in the face like a thousand pins” (138).[1] He is alone; a feeling of “inexplicable uneasiness” (139) comes over him. Trudging through the darkness, Golyadkin experiences a strange new sensation: “melancholy, yet not melancholy, fear, and yet not fear… a feverish trembling [runs] through his veins. The moment [is] unbearably unpleasant!” (140). All of a sudden, in this damp, dark, misty night, Golyadkin comes face to face with his double! A cold shiver runs down his spine, as he stands, senselessly staring after the other. “Have I gone mad or something?” (141) he asks himself, incredulously.

This episode from Chapter 5 of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Double features all the conventions of a derivative gothic scene: the stroke of midnight, a persecuted hero, stormy weather, isolation, and a sense of “inexplicable uneasiness.” Yet, even before Golyadkin, Jr. (that is, the double) appears, Golyadkin, Sr. is filled with anxiety, fear, and dread, almost as though the appearance of his double is expected. Throughout the work, Golyadkin Sr. repeatedly asks himself if he is hallucinating or going mad. By the end, though, he seems resigned to the existence of his double. In addition to this episode and the uncanny double, gothic psychologies such as anxiety, uneasiness, and dread permeate the work. While these could simply provide atmosphere, Dostoevsky exploits them to build up a palpable sense of anxiety for his reader, a reflection of his hero’s anxiety. While the narrator’s voice at times provides humor, the text’s gothic quality contributes to a sense of disquiet that lingers even after the book has been shut.

Dostoevsky was well aware of the power of the gothic. Indeed, gothic themes appear so frequently in his works that Vladimir Nabokov dismissed him as merely “a much overrated, sentimental, and Gothic novelist of the time.”[2] Intriguingly, Nabokov also considered The Double, despite its obvious gothic theme, to be “the very best thing [Dostoevsky] ever wrote.”[3] Dostoevsky’s interest in gothic fiction began when his parents read it to him as a child; he recalls that his hair “[standing] on end” and “raving deliriously in his sleep afterwards.”[4] He was familiar with works by British gothic writers including Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis, and Charles Maturin, among others.[5] While these novelists are known for their formulaic writing, they produced enduringly popular fiction providing suspense and psychological thrills. The appeal of gothic fiction is its preoccupation with dark alter egos and passions, transgressive thoughts that lurk behind the seemingly rational mind and emerge in ways that expose hidden fears and truths. If the work’s links to the gothic are so readily apparent, the question remains: what do we gain from reading The Doublegothically?

 

Gothic Doubling

The figure of the double or doppelgänger is a gothic stock character, one that David Punter classifies alongside Frankenstein’s creature, the Wandering Jew, and the Byronic vampire.[6] Each of these types can be read as the manifestation of anxiety over a transgression. Frankenstein’s creature exists because of his creator’s hubris, a man playing God. The Wandering Jew has been cursed with deathless wandering because of his sin against Christ. Vampires are undead, have forfeited their souls, and carry an illicit sexual connotation, particularly the Byronic variety. Punter uses the examples of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) to showcase the double type. In both cases, the double figures—the violent, monstrous Hyde and Dorian’s decaying, aging portrait-self—reveal the horrors apparent when the self is physically divided. Jekyll’s goodness is offset by Hyde’s murderous tendencies just as Dorian’s external beauty contrasts with the internal decay and degeneration represented in his portrait.

The double’s appearance is usually terrifying because it is the manifestation of the social encounter feared most: one in which the authentic self is revealed. Suddenly, faced with your own mirror image, dark secrets are no longer buried, but potentially on display; if you can observe them, so can others. The terror lies in your double revealing your own hidden, true self, perhaps, even worse, a self hidden even to you. Analyzing E. T. A. Hoffmann’s “Der Sandmann” in “Das Unheimliche” (1919), Freud describes the sensation of uncanny, or unheimlich (literally, un-home-ly; a sense of feeling displaced from what’s familiar) as something not foreign, but strangely familiar, creating cognitive dissonance. He specifically uses the example of the doppelgänger in his discussion of the uncanny. Encountering your own double isn’t just a disturbing experience, but generates a peculiar kind of disquiet, one that comes from recognizing yourself but, at the same time, seeing yourself as others see you.

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While the double’s appearance in Dostoevsky is horrifying, it isn’t violent, and the only murders that take place are metaphorical. In Wilde and Stevenson, the doubles represent a physical split, creating contradictory, opposing characters linked together. In Dostoevsky, the double plays a different role. At first, Golyadkin Sr. finds his double to be a friendly listener, but perceives that Golyadkin Jr. quickly begins to undermine him. Golyadkin Sr. believes he has righteousness on his side, but is ostracized in society. He observes that his double, on the other hand, is often hypocritical or deceitful, but his ability to perform within society’s expectations endears him to Golyadkin Sr.’s acquaintances. Golyadkin Sr. knows Jr.’s antics are rooted in falsehood, but, at the same time, the petty nastiness of Golyadkin Jr. is a mirror of Golyadkin Sr.’s rude treatment of his servant, Petrushka. Although Golyadkin Sr. considers his relationship with his double to be a dichotomy between authenticity and falseness, the reader realizes that all is falseness, that Golyadkins Jr. and Sr. are the same. Gary Saul Morson asserts that the novel’s humor lies in the fact that Golyadkin concurrently recognizes and refuses to recognize that he is his own double, while the horror of the piece lies in the possibility that “the real me is not mine but his, and I am the one who does not have a me!”[7] Or, rather, that an authentic self may not exist at all, just copies.

Golyadkin’s frequently expressed death wish—for example, “Mr. Golyadkin now not only wished to flee from himself, but also to be completely annihilated” (139)—comes to pass upon encountering the double and, with this, uncertainty about his own genuine existence. Strangely, throughout the text, Golyadkin dies multiple times, always metaphorically and often ironically. He’s described as half-dead, nearly dead, dead, annihilated, murdered, and, in one humorous line, Andrey Filippovich, Golyadkin’s head of office, shoots him a look “that would have destroyed our hero completely, had he not been completely destroyed already” (134). Similarly, the narrator describes Golyadkin after his humiliation at Klara Olsufyevna’s birthday party as though he has died: “Mr. Golyadkin had been murdered – murdered in the full sense of the word” (138). As Malcolm Jones points out, in this moment, Golyadkin “feels the physical abyss of the staircase looming up together with the spiritual abyss of total annihilation.”[8] In this state, he rushes out into the night and encounters his double for the first time.

In Dostoevsky’s text, the double appears after a metaphorical death. This progression is a mirror image of a common nineteenth-century spiritualist belief about doppelgängers, that the double’s appearance is an ill omen that often prefigures death. The reasoning behind this, taken from folklore, is that the spirit world and the living world co-exist, always hidden from each other, but before death, the barrier between them opens. For example, in Prometheus Unbound (1820), Percy Bysshe Shelley describes the priest Zoroaster encountering his own double, an apparition from the shadow world visible only to him. The double is a mirrored reflection of the living individual in the land of the dead; it appears to its other half in life just before death comes. This idea is not limited to literature; intriguingly, after Shelley’s death, his wife, the gothic novelist Mary Shelley, wrote in a letter that her husband had described seeing his own double less than a month before he died.[9] In inverting this formula, Dostoevsky creates more confusion around his text’s narrative structure. The double appears, but Golyadkin’s own state—living, dead, dreaming, mad—can only be guessed, leaving the reader in an uneasy state.

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In 1848, Catherine Crowe published a two-volume parapsychological study called The Night-Side of Nature: Ghosts and Ghost-Seers, which includes chapters dedicated to diverse spectral phenomena including waking dreams, wraiths, apparitions, and “Doppelgängers, or Doubles,” among others. Crowe’s research documents a number of cases in which individuals encountered doubles, either their own or those of a friend or relative. In some of the cases, the double’s appearance did portend death. In others, apparently taken from doctors’ records, the double’s appearance is the result of illness, either mental or physical. The uncanny appearance of a double is usually upsetting, but some of the stories Crowe recounts strike me as humorous. For example, in one case, a Danish physician became very anxious about being held up on a call and missing a scheduled visit to another patient. However, afterwards, the unvisited patient reported that the physician had paid him a call. According to Crowe, hearing of his own spectral visits “occasioned him such an unpleasant sensation that he requested his patients never to tell him when it happened.”[10] In another instance, more in keeping with the focus of this blog, Crowe alludes to Catherine the Great, who allegedly had a more volatile reaction to her Doppelgänger: upon meeting her double sitting on her throne, she casually ordered her guards to fire upon it![11]

Crowe’s “Doppelgängers, or Doubles” chapter provides a strangely complementary read alongside Dostoevsky’s The Double. Beyond the fact that nearly all the doctors whose records Crowe cites are German (reminding me of Dr. Rutenshpitz), the two works appeared around the same time, although Crowe, living in England, wouldn’t have had any opportunity to read Dostoevsky’s novella before penning her study. Curiously, Golyadkin and Crowe share an experience: both were carted off to the madhouse at the end of their texts; Crowe was admitted to an asylum in 1854 after she was discovered wandering around Edinburgh naked because, she reported, spirits had told her to do so.[12] Crowe, afterwards, said that her madness was a research-based aberration as she had fallen into a state in which she believed “spirits were directing” her writing.[13]

Crowe was an enthusiast of German ghost stories, and many of the case studies described sound as if they are lifted from gothic novels, or echo Golyadkin’s encounter with his double. This resonance underscores Dostoevsky’s debt in his original formulation of The Double to E. T. A. Hoffmann, the German master of the uncanny Romantic tale. The Double’s direct influence from Hoffmann and his indirect influence filtered through Gogol is difficult to untangle. However, from Dostoevsky’s 1861 piece in Timecomparing Edgar Allan Poe and Hoffmann, we learn that Dostoevsky admired Hoffmann’s ability to delve into the secrets of the psyche using a Romantic blend of fantasy and reality.[14] Crowe’s ghost stories seem reminiscent of this type of writing in that they, too, sit at the intersection between the imagined and the real. In another of Crowe’s cases, a man, “in perfect health, one evening, on turning the corner of a street, met his own form, face to face; the figure seemed as real and life-like as himself; and he was so close as to look into its very eyes. He was seized with terror, and it vanished.”[15] The man tells friends about it, tries to laugh it off, but remains shaken. Similarly, confronted with his own double, Golyadkin seeks reassurances from his colleagues that the similarity is uncanny, but no one else notices that anything is wrong. Crowe, writing a scholarly book, asserts throughout her study that she is seeking only the truth in her explorations. Golyadkin, too, champions authenticity, but Dostoevsky, writing his fantastic realist novella, knows he is crafting a fictional world, and problematizes Golyadkin’s quest for truth.

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The Double, Gothically

The Double haunted Dostoevsky. It was critically panned upon publication in Notes of the Fatherland in 1846. He came back to it, again and again, eventually publishing a revised version in 1866 (the one commonly read today). But even after this, the novella continued to obsess him. In 1877, he wrote in the Writer’s Diary, “I failed with this novella, but the idea was fairly luminous, and I have never done anything in literature more serious than this idea. But the form I gave to this novella was a complete failure… and if now I were to come back to this idea to develop it again, I should choose a completely different form: but in 1846 I was not able to find that form.”[16]

Dostoevsky’s conclusion that the novella’s form didn’t work leads us back to the gothic. The Double is a novel that starts naturalistically, detailing Golyadkin’s various thoughts as he goes through his day. At midnight, he encounters his double in a gothic scene, and is terrified. Afterwards, the double torments him, but we don’t know if the double is a hallucination, an apparition, or a physical person. Finally, the novella ends with Golyadkin on the way to some kind of asylum. The gothic scene in Chapter 5 is the key threshold scene between the naturalistic opening and the fantastic potential of the conclusion. This gothic scene could be a continuation of the naturalism, a nod to Golyadkin’s increasing paranoia and anxiety. It could be the beginning of the fantastic portion, a midnight transition into a Petersburg in which reality blurs and cannot be trusted. But the gothic scene is entirely subjective: no one thinks the double’s appearance is fantastic except Golyadkin and potentially the reader.

The section in which the double appears links two transitional gothic moments: Golyadkin’s midnight bridge crossing and the final moment, as Golyadkin finds himself enroute to the asylum. Some critics read The Double as a nightmare, and these linked scenes are key to that reading, especially the specific Petersburg environment that contextualizes the initial appearance of the double.[17] Donald Fanger equates the atmosphere of Petersburg as that of a bad dream,[18] tying this particular scene specifically to the city’s layered mythology, a point that becomes particularly relevant in the context of both Dostoevsky’s subtitle of the novella, “A Petersburg Poem,” and its relationship to Pushkin’s earlier work “The Bronze Horseman” (1833). In that poema, the city literally comes to life in another sequence that’s not clearly identified as waking or dreaming, when the Falconet monument to Peter the Great chases hapless clerk Evgeny through the dark, flooding streets of Petersburg, eventually sending him to madness and death. Konstantin Mochulsky even says that Golyadkin himself is “an outgrowth of the putrid Petersburg fog, a phantom living in a phantom city.”[19] Going a step further, Dina Khapaeva argues that the entire text, not just selected episodes, is an expression of nightmare.[20]

But, for a nightmarish text with a gothic core, The Double is remarkably humorous. Golyadkin’s anxious thoughts seem awkward to us, but are endearing as well. The narrator’s often mocking voice amuses, and even though Golyadkin is filled with horror, annihilated, crushed, it seems excessively melodramatic, to the point of laughter. When the narrator states things like, “The man now sitting across from Mr. Golyadkin was Mr. Golyadkin’s horror, he was Mr. Golyadkin’s shame, he was Mr. Golyadkin’s nightmare from the day before; in short, he was Mr. Golyadkin, himself” (146), horror combines with laughter to create a layered text that leaves the reader with still more questions. Malcolm Jones identifies a chorus of voices in the novella, but states that the voice of “reality” is lacking. There are threshold positions, like the gothic scene in Chapter 5, in which “reality and fantasy are delicately poised,” but “it is impossible … to discern where the threshold lies. The text passes over into a permanently confused state and takes the reader with it.”[21]

Jones’s Bakhtinian reading of The Double resonates with the narration found in one of Dostoevsky’s favorite gothic novels, Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820). There, the reader can rely on the narrator, but the manuscript itself is not reliable. The narrated story frames a fractured tale taken from a book that is literally disintegrating: “dissolved, obliterated, and mutilated beyond any that had ever before exercised the patience of a reader.”[22] At times, the text from this manuscript breaks off, allowing the voice of a second narrator to enter. The second narrator, coming in abruptly, does not contextualize, but instead plunges the reader into an often disconnected and mysterious tale. The end result of this is a book filled with twists and turns that are not logically mappable, with voices that don’t respond to each other, and with great confusion as to what’s actually happening on the part of the reader, who becomes a refraction of the reader squinting through the damaged manuscript within the novel.

The reader of The Double feels a similar sense of confusion, as s/he struggles with the novella’s great puzzle: whether or not the double is real. Does Golyadkin’s mental distress cause him to hallucinate the double, or is the double perhaps one manifestation of a split personality, a variation of heautoscopy? Or, is the double’s appearance a fantastic element that, in the gothic tradition of Horace Walpole, Matthew Lewis, and Charles Maturin, has no explanation? Or, is the novella simply Golyadkin’s nightmare? The text offers no definitive answers. It is this intermingling of possible explanations—and the lack of resolution—that gives The Double one facet of its permeating gothic feel. For, in The Double, the reader is as disconnected from the truth of the matter as the hero.

The final scene of The Double sees the hero in a carriage, seated across from Dr. Rutenshpitz… or the doctor’s double… described simply as: “two burning eyes staring at [Golyadkin] in the dark, shining with a sinister, infernal glee” (229). Up to this point, Golyadkin’s monster has been his duplicate, but in this scene, we can’t help but think of Stephen King’s observation that “monsters… may pop up in our own mirrors—at any time.”[23] And this is the value of reading The Double gothically: the irresoluble nature of Dostoevsky’s novella allows the reader to make up his/her own mind about the text’s solution. It may be that this lack of resolution is intended to prompt readers to look at themselves in the mirror and imagine how they would react if they, struggling at midnight through a terrible storm, came across a stranger who looked exactly like them…

Notes

[1]                All quotes from The Double are from Fedor Dostoevskii, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v tridtsati tomakh, Vol. 1 (Leningrad: Nauka, 1972). Hereafter PSS. All translations are my own unless stated otherwise.

[2]                Vladimir Nabokov, Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse, Vol. 2 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 191.

[3]                Nabokov, Lectures on Russian Literature (New York: Mariner Books, 2002), 90.

[4]                Dostoevsky refers specifically to the novels of Ann Radcliffe in this passage. Dostoevskii, PSS, Vol. 5, 46.

[5]                See Robin Feuer Miller, “Dostoevsky and the Tale of Terror,” in W. J. Leatherbarrow, ed., Dostoevskii and Britain (Oxford: Berg, 1995), 139-158.

[6]                David Punter, The Literature of Terror. A History of Gothic Fictions from 1765 to the Present Day. Vol. 2.The Modern Gothic (Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 1996), 21.

[7]                Gary Saul Morson, “Me and My Double: Selfhood, Consciousness, and Empathy in The Double,” in Elizabeth Cheresh Allen, ed., Before they were Titans: Essays on the Early Works of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2015), 50.

[8]                Malcolm Jones, Dostoyevsky after Bakhtin: Readings in Dostoyevsky’s Fantastic Realism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 44.

[9]                Betty T. Bennett, ed., The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Vol. 1 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), 245.

[10]              Catherine Crowe, The Night-Side of Nature, or, Ghosts and Ghost-seers, Vol. 1 (London: T. C. Newby, 1848), 287.

[11]              Ibid., 280. This story is widespread in popular accounts, but seems largely absent from scholarly ones. In Andrew Lang’s The Book of Dreams and Ghosts (1897), an eyewitness account is actually reproduced, albeit one acquired second hand long after the alleged episode.

[12]              Dickens recounts the story of her madness in a letter to a friend. The Letters of Charles Dickens, Vol. 7 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1974-93), 285-286. Dickens called her case “hopeless,” but Crowe made a full recovery!

[13]              Cited in Dickens, Vol. 7, 286.

[14]              For a more thorough discussion, see Jacques Catteau, Dostoyevsky and the Process of Literary Creation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 53-62.

[15]              Crowe, 281.

[16]              Quoted in Catteau, 61.

[17]              I have written elsewhere on gothic elements in early realist texts set in St. Petersburg, including several by Dostoevsky. See Katherine Bowers, “The City through a Glass, Darkly: Use of the Gothic in Early Russian Realism,” The Modern Language Review 108.4 (2013): 1199-1215.

[18]              Donald Fanger, Dostoevsky and Romantic Realism: A Study of Dostoevsky in Relation to Balzac, Dickens, and Gogol (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), 160-161.

[19]              Quoted in Fanger, 161. From Konstantin Mochulsky, Dostoevsky: Zhizn’ i tvorchestvo (Paris, 1947), 42.

[20]              See Dina Khapaeva, Nightmare: From Literary Experiments to Cultural Project (Amsterdam: Brill, 2013), 107-131.

[21]              Jones, 58.

[22]              Charles Maturin, Melmoth the Wanderer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 28.

[23]              Stephen King, Danse Macabre (New York: Berkley Books, 1983), 252.

 

Golyadkin’s Human “Shriek”

by Amy Ronner

Amy D. Ronner is Professor of Law at the St. Thomas University School of Law. The following was redacted and revised by Dr. Ronner from her book, Dostoevsky and the Law (Carolina Academic Press, 2015).

The_Scream (1)Golyadkin and Andrei Petrovich Versilov, although conceivably split or doubling, are not the crazed or mad others who are so radically different from the rest of the human species and from their author. Dostoevsky understood that, while the double can be a step that could lead to disaster, it does not always do so. In a letter that Dostoevsky penned to his friend Yekaterina Yunge, an artist and memoirist who had confided that she suffered from chronic “duality,” he emphatically expressed his views: “[Duality is] the most ordinary trait of people, who are not entirely ordinary, however.” Dostoevsky felt that, in his own case, the “ordinary trait” – that of duality – is “a great torment, but at the same time a great delight too.” He told Yunge it was a “powerful consciousness, need for self-evaluation, and the presence in your nature of the need for moral obligation toward yourself and toward humanity.” In essence, doubling can be normative, part and parcel of the creative process, a nexus between internal and external realms, and that sacrosanct conduit between the self and the human race.

It is not surprising that psychiatrist Richard Rosenthal, coming to a similar realization, aligns Golyadkin with postlapsarian humanity: “[…] like Golyadkin, we try to clothe ourselves in an omnipotent other self, a self we could have been or secretly believe we someday still will be, a self who is free of the painful awareness of just those limitations which define our boundaries and make us who we are.”[1]

The “all” and “everybody” in Golyadkin becomes apparent in the novel right before Rutenspitz carts our “hero” off to the asylum: Golyadkin scans the attendees at the party and sees “[a] whole procession of identical Golyadkins . . . bursting loudly in at every door.” The implication here is that everyone is or might be a Golyadkin: Dostoevsky thus compels his readers to see not some peculiar anomaly, but rather, just a parade of everyday selves. The novel urges readers to examine doubly both Golyadkin’s struggles and their own, and to endure that all-too familiar “painful awareness” of their human limitations. Like or not, readers tend to meld with Golyadkin as his fate becomes their own. When Golyadkin met his double, he “wanted to scream, but could not.” At his finale, Golyadkin succeeds at emitting that blood-curdling shriek while being whisked away. His shriek is our shriek as well.

[1] Richard Rosenthal, “Dostoevsky’s Experiment with Projective Mechanisms and the Theft of Identity in The Double,” in Russian Literature and Psychoanalysis, ed. Daniel Rancour-Laferriere (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1989), 83.

Dr. Julian Connolly’s Article on The Double

Those reading Dostoevsky’s The Double this week might be interested in the piece that Dr. Julian Connolly published in Dostoevsky Studies 17 (2013). The issue is now available online at archive.com. (In fact, the first 17 issues of the new series of Dostoevsky Studies are now at archive.com!) Dr. Connolly is Professor of Russian Literature at the University of Virginia. His piece is “The Ethical Implications of Narrative Point of View in Dostoevsky’s The Double.” Enjoy!