Crime and Punishment at 150 (2016)

Dostoevsky for Students in the 21st Century Beyer Jr., Thomas R.


While our knowledge of how students learn and the influx of new technologies have dominated discussions of the challenges facing higher education, there has been a marked lack of progression in the traditional literature course. Many relied heavily on lectures. Some of these were brilliant, but largely reflecting the choices made by the instructor as to what elements were important. Discussions have also been a mainstay of engaging students. Dependent almost entirely on students having actually read the text, actively engaging student to THINK and respond to texts improves retention. There are also ways to incorporate new technologies to achieve better outcomes with our students. In 2014 and again in 2016 I am offering a Dostoevsky course in English translation at Middlebury College which meets in one three hour evening session for 12 weeks. Since students have grown unaccustomed to reading the lengthy novels, I strongly suggested to all enrolled students that they read prior to the first class The Brothers Karamazov. Classroom activities were directed by groups of two students responsible for “teaching” each class: leading the discussion, providing background, examining the lengthy films and selecting excerpts for viewing. Students presenting were required to dress in business casual and provide snacks for the film screenings. I actively participated in classroom discussions, monitoring and offering comments to address important aspects of the novels and scholarly research. To cap the experience and have a somewhat lighter reading load in the final week of classes students were required to give a presentation=interpretive overview of Dostoevsky. The results can be viewed at: At the end of twelve weeks students had read: Notes from the House of the Dead, Notes from the Underground, Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Devils, and Brothers Karamazov. Each student had “taught” at least one class, enhancing their oral delivery skills, and letting them explore presentation software.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International