Crime and Punishment at 150 (2016)

The Intersection of Cultures in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment : Reflections on Teaching for the Core at a Jesuit Institution Blake, Elizabeth


This paper will focus on the course "Dostoevsky Through the Centuries" for both Russian majors and students in Arts and Sciences seeking to fulfill a core literature requirement; the course while discussing the Russian novelist at the same time addresses three disciplines central to the Jesuit emphasis on humanistic disciplines, i.e., language, literature, and theology. First, a discussion of photographs from contemporary St. Petersburg and nineteenth-century Siberia as well as scenes from Lev Kulidzhanov's film adaptation will show how visuals help promote students' understanding of the geographic space presented in the novel. Then, research on the presence of casuistry and Catholicism in the novel--especially in the form of Polish prisoners and the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte- will serve as the basis for an analysis of how instruction at a Jesuit institution impacts a reading of the novel in the aforementioned course. For example, the remembrances written by the devout Polish Catholic Szymon Tokarzewski, who shared Dostoevsky's experience as a political prisoner in Omsk, will provide a portrait of Dostoevsky's Siberia, which differs from its representation in Raskolnikov's Siberia in that it maintains that the elitism in the prison belongs to the Russian noblemen. In other words, the paper will address how the exploration of competing political theologies in Crime and Punishment, which may be linked to Orthodox and Catholic traditions offering legitimacy to anti-authoritarian movements such as tyrannicide and imposture, challenges students to confront how the Society of Jesus's motto, Ad majorem dei gloriam, may be perceived as Machiavellian by Orthodox intellectuals adhering to a system of deontological ethics.

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