19th Century Russian Literature


This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.

Levin’s visit to Anna has a striking effect on him, on Anna and on Kitty. You may choose to reflect on her power to impress people. Or you might examine her portrait. Finally, Tolstoi uses as he had in War in Peace his last pages to tell the reader what he feels he has not adequalty conveyed in his novel. Is his message, much like Dostoevsky’s, too important to be left to fiction?


It’s a dog’s world!

Tolstoi gets into everyone’s mind, even Laska’s-the dog. Yet each sees the world and events in a different light. Tolstoi sees the irony, hypocrisy, and superficiality of conventions-societal, religious, legal. He also employs a technigue called “defamiliarization” in which a common occurrence is presented from a unigue perspective so that we the readers can experience the old and familiar in a refreshingly new way.  What have you learned from Books 5 and 6?


Forgive and forget?

There is lots of forgiving going around, but also haymowing, death anxiety, moth killing divorce lawyers, kids running wild, and the contrast of one family dissolving while another gets ready to tie the knot. And what about Vronsky’s suicide attempt-Anna being pregnant-and so much more? Can anyone sum up this chaos in 250-300 words?


So “they were resurrected by love.”

“But here begins a new account,… It might make  the subject of a new story.” Write a 250 word proposal for this sequel suggesting a title and outlining the future of Raskolnikov. Be sure to make his final dream a central part of the action or serve as a central theme of your own creation.


Crime and Slime

The novel which begins with a simple murder turns into a melting pot of sub-plots: Sonya and redemption, Dunya and female courage, Svidrigailov and suicide, Porfiry and criminal investigation, Luzhin and exploitation, and even poor Raskolnikov and his search for meaning. So pick a plot and share your thoughts.


Saying a “New Word.”

Book Three steps outside of the world of Raskolnikov to include others. They are all trying to restore him to health, but as the doctor remarks, that requires identifying cause.  Does Raskolnikov’s theory of the “extraordinary man” provide a clue? Does the theory stand up to careful scrutiny even if Raskolnikov is not one of those extraordinary men?


Crime and Punishment

Where does one begin? Is the novel a search for motive? What drives Raskolnikov? Is it simple arithmetic-kill the old lady and use the money for good? What is Sonya’s response to economic despair? How close is this to a perfect crime? Does Raskolnikov care too much for others to be a real man of decisive action? What is the meaning of dreams in real life and in literature?   Answer any of mine or raise your own and answer it.


Another Poor Liza?

As an alternative to the despicable actions and words of the Underground man, Dostoevsky provides us with a prostitute whose actions speak louder than words. What is the answer to the Underground Man’s ranting and ravings? Is it important or even essential that the response resides in a woman?


The Notes from the Underground

When you have read Part I and the first part of Frank’s article, then familiarize yourselves with Existentialism (Wikipedia believe it or not is good place to start). So armed re-read the footnote in Frank drawing on Hirsch’s definition of “meaning” and “significance.” Sine Frank attempts to provide the meaning of the text, let your own response be to its significance for you. The Underground man desires a debate-give it to him. You can accept or refute his assertions on “two times two,” “The Crystal Palace,” “the toothache,” “the anthill,” “free will,” or whatever other topic might strike your fancy.  (300 words is plenty-we do want to discuss the text.!  🙂


Looking ahead to projects.

By Thursday April 2 before class each project group should outline its projects and provide a list of participants as a comment to this blog entry.

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