The Dostoevsky Journal – An Independent Review: Issue 2

Editor’s Preface

The papers in Volume 2 (2001) of The Dostoevsky Journal: An Independent Review have been delivered at a special conference Dostoevsky and the Problem of Dialogue in Contemporary European Thought, 10-12 January 2000, to mark the 10th anniversary of the St Petersburg School of Religion and Philosophy. The papers have been edited by Professor Natalia Pecherskaya, Director of the SPSRP. The Editorial Board of the journal has provided Abstracts to the papers at the end of the volume.

August 2001

Oleg Nogovitsin, Zlo v khristianstve i bunt Ivana Karamazova [Evil in Christianity and Ivan Karamazov’s Rebellion]

This article deconstructs two cultural texts: Job’s rebellion in the biblical text and Ivan Karamazov’s rebellion in a strictly literary text. These two types of discourses are analysed interculturally, as two types of thinking (two sensibilities) or types of consciousness) which define two hermeneutics (interpretations) of evil.

Apart from a discussion of the different cultural contexts, such as the difference between the understanding of God in Greek, Judaic and Christian thought, the article represents a methodologically significant discussion on the relationship of mystical and artistic reality.

Natalia V Zhivolupova, Drugoi v khudozhestvennom soznanii Dostoevskogo i problema evolutsii ispovedi antigeroia [The Other in Dostoevsky’s poetics and the evolution of the confessional form of the anti-hero]

This paper deals with the poetics of three of Dostoevsky’s works (Notes from the UndergroundThe Meek OneDream of a Ridiculous Man), constituted in the form of the confession. The confessional genre is considered crucial in the constitution of The Other. The article defines the semantic limits of the concept of The Other and its applicability in Dostoevsky’s poetics. M M Bakhtin’s views on The Other are reexamined, teasing out the reductionist treatment of the category of alterity by the Russian theoretician of dialogicity. The Other is recontextualised in specific relationships: author-hero, hero-text, text-reader. The ‘ideal form of otherness’ (God) is analysed with particular reference to Bakhtin and to the concept of the ‘sacredness’ of the ‘re-cognizing’ subject. The ‘sacred’ is analysed as constitutive of the form of the confession of the anti-hero.

I A Rusniak, Mifologicheskoe myshlenie v dialogicheskoi strukture teksta Dostoevskogo (Bratia Karamazovy) [Mythological Thinking in the Dialogic Structure of Dostoevsky’s Discourse (The Brothers Karamazov)]

The article examines ritual structures, such as sacrifice and initiation rites, in Dostoevsky’s novel, relying on the methodologies developed by V N Toporov (Myth, Ritual, Symbol, Icon. Moscow, “Kul’tura-Progress,” 1995), as well as anthropological and structuralist studies (James George Frazer,The Golden Bough, 1925-30, V V Ivanov and V Propp). Mythological thinking is a type of thinking that unites the living and the dead and eliminates borders between the Self and The Other. This is analysed using the textual example of little Ilyusha Snegirev whose ‘testament’ to his father consists of the suggestion of ‘selecting’ another little boy, ‘naming’ him and ‘substituting’ him for the dead Ilyusha. The ritual of eating accompanies the ‘sacrifice’ of young Ilyusha. The entire ‘educational novel’ – the genre of BK – is structured along the systemic use of initiation rituals.

A B Kholodov, Mifopoetika romanov F M Dostoevskogo: Dialog i kontekst [Mythopoetics of Dostoevsky’s novels: Dialogue and Context]

The article argues that all of Dostoevsky’s novels contain mythopoetic motifs, grounded in archaic ritual and rites of passage. The sujet of Crime and Punishment is thus found to be constituted by the “history of the spiritual growth of a young man”, whose spiritual quest, fall and resurrection are related to archaic initiation rites.

N A Fateeva, Deistvitel’no li Dostoevskii dialogichen? O dialogichnosti i intertekstual’nosti ‘otchaianiia’ [Is Dostoevsky truly dialogic? On the dialogicity and intertextuality of ‘despair’]

This article offers an intertextual analysis of ‘sound-images’ in V Nabokov’s novel Despair and Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, with special reference to the motif of ‘despair’. It challenges (with Wolf Schmid, 1998) the idea that Dostoevsky’s prose is ‘dialogic’ in Bakhtin’s sense. Instead, it claims that a “highly structured” novel such as Crime and Punishment relies on a single “linguistic persona” (iazykovaia lichnost’), whose “inner drama” develops in an extensive (propositional) form within the text. This unified linguistic persona is manifested through the unconscious – via automatised repetitions of sound-images organised along the motif of despair. The same device used more explicitly by Nabokov adds authority to this interpretation.

K A Stepanian, Smert’ i voskresenie, Bytie i nebytie v romanakh Dostoevskogo [Death and resurrection, Being and Non-Being in Dostoevsky’s Novels]

This article deals with the theme of death in The Idiot, which is contextualised in Russian religious thought of the end of the 19th century, Russian patristic literature as well as poststructuralism (M Foucault). Death is connected with resurrection and transformation. This produces a signifying chain of motifs which involve substitution (podmena) which leads to the central thesis that the Christ-like figure of Myshkin is not Man-God but God-Man (Bogochelovek). As a consequence of this substitution the real world of the novel emerges as shaken, shattered and distorted. Salvation in this world comes through the Word as the Incarnation of Christ.

M Woodford, Kommentarii k snu glavnogo geroia v rasskaze F M Dostoevskogo ‘Gospodin Prokharchin’ [Commentary on the Dream of the Hero in Dostoevsky’s Story ‘Mr Prokharchin’]

This is a detailed analysis of the dream of Mr Prokharchin, which is a central motif in the structure of this early Dostoevsky story. The dream is seen to be the source of the feeling of (moral) universal guilt in the hero’s consciousness.

M Blumenkrants, Eskhatologicheskaia problema v tvorchestve F M Dostoevskogo [The eschatological problem in the works of F M Dostoevsky]

This article discusses the problem of utopia and anti-utopia in Dostoevsky’s works, with reference to Dostoevsky’s anthropology and aschatology. A major conclusion is that all of Dostoevsky’s works contain the conflict between “the dialectic of a negating reason and the metaphysics of a lacerated heart.”

Gr Benevich, Mat’-Syra-Zemlia i geopolitika (sviortyvanie ploskostei Fyodora Dostoevskogo) [Mother-Earth and Geopolitics (Dostoevsky’s flattening of surfaces)]

This article examines Dostoevsky’s philosophy of life as artist and publicist through the revelation of moments of “flattening” of “depth” (“false prophecies”) and “translocation of plains” (transfiguration of ideas). The article deconstructs the writer’s ‘geopolitics’, revealing its ambiguity and inherently ‘tragic’ nature. This is illustrated through an interpretation of the novel The Raw Youth. The problem of the unity of the Russian people and the Russian intelligenstia, seen as having been posed by Dostoevsky as a problem of a (flattened) surface, was not resolved in pre-Revolutionary Russia. However, during the Soviet period, a kind of unity was achieved. In the post-Soviet period the problem of unity has been recast as that between Russia and Europe. Its ‘exterior’ or ‘surface’ resolution is preempted in Christ’s kissing of the Grand Inquisitor.

L V Saraskina, F M Dostoevsky I “Vostochnyi vopros” [F M Dostoevsky and the “Eastern Question”]

This article provides a dialogue with Benevich’s article on Dostoevsky’s geopolitical ideas. It centres around the complex of ideas propounded in The Idiot under the collective title of “The Eastern Question”. This body of ideas, originating in Dostoevsky’s specific geopolitical and historical situation, is subjected to a contextual analysis and placed in confrontation with N Danilevsky’s vision of Russo-European relations. The resultant interpretation of Dostoevsky’s geopolitical ideas demonstrates his reception of Danilevsky’s views. Out of Dostoevsky’s implicit dialogue with the latter emerges Dostoevsky’s own distinct view of Russian history and Russia’s messianic role vis–vis Europe.

Penelope Minney, Dostoevsky’s Dialogic Imagination and the British School of Radical Orthodoxy

This article examines the contemporary conditions for the reception of the works of Dostoevsky in England, in particular by the group of theologians known as the British School of Radical Orthodoxy. The School, which advocates a return to the “roots” of the Early Church, the teachings of the Fathers and a Trinitarian theology, is constituted, among others, by contemporary British Dostoevsky scholars (Diana Thompson and Ruth Coates), who are offering new Christian readings of Dostoevsky’s opus. The article examines the work of Ruth Coates who takes up the question of Bakhtin and the religious dimension of Dostoevsky’s works (compare Coates’ monographChristianity in Bakhtin: God and the Exiled Author, 1999).