Reading the great Russian writers of the 19th and 20th centuries can feel like being slapped in the face. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, for one, repeatedly smacks his readers with astonishing prophecies of ideological terror and social insanity.

Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished student and the protagonist of Crime and Punishment (1866), divides human beings into two categories: the ordinary many and the extraordinary few, who have the right to “step over blood” in the pursuit of “the New Jerusalem.” Raskolnikov’s argument rationalizes his own violent crimes in a way that eerily anticipates the exponentially greater ones of the Soviet Union more than half a century later. Not for nothing was Dostoyevsky banned under the Soviets.

Over six Sunday sessions, fellows will closely study Dostoyevsky’s first great novel, written after his return from ten years of exile in Siberia.

Image: Mykola Yaroshenko, The Prisoner (1878)

Jacob Howland on reading in the modern world


Jacob Howland

Jacob Howland is Chief Academic Officer and Director of the Intellectual Foundations Program at UATX. His research focuses on ancient Greek philosophy, history, epic, and tragedy; the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud; Kierkegaard; and literary and philosophical responses to the Holocaust and Soviet totalitarianism.

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