Crime and Punishment at 150 (2016)

Teaching Crime and Punishment to Senior Citizens Katz, Michael


My paper will report on my experience teaching a class of ten senior citizens in the Lifelong Learning Program of Elderly Services, Inc. in Middlebury, Vermont. I was invited to submit a proposal for a course to be offered in Spring 2016 and submitted the following description: “Since its publication in 1866 Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment has intrigued readers: it’s a murder mystery told from the point of view of the murderer. The fundamental question posed by the author is not the usual “Who done it?” but “Why did he do it?” Join us to read (or reread) one of the masterpieces of world literature that catapulted Dostoevsky into the ranks of the world’s greatest novelists. Taught by a retired professor of Russian who is currently retranslating the novel for a new Norton Critical Edition.” Since the course is still in process, my abstract can only reflect the outline and design; my paper will consist of a full report on the experience. The course was scheduled over a six-week period (April-May, 2106), with one part of the novel assigned for each class. We began with introductions: first the instructor described his educational and professional background. Then the students introduced themselves and were invited to speak about their previous readings in Russian literature and their reasons for taking the course. Each class began with a short presentation, which provided helpful hints for reading the following Part (including a chart of characters, an explanation of “speaking names,”, etc.) Short excerpts from the classic Russian film (1970) and the BBC/Time-Life version (1979) were shown and compared as cinematic interpretations of the text. The majority of class was taken up in discussion, which was far-ranging and often involved the sharing of personal experiences. So far (not even at the midpoint), the course is a great success, judging both by the nature of the discussions and the comments offered by the participants.

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