Crime and Punishment at 150 (2016)

The Petersburg Text in the 21st Century : Dostoevsky Cultural Memory in the Contemporary City Stepkina, Ksenia


Saint Petersburg played a central role in the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky - Crime and Punishment is commonly referred to as the “Petersburg novel”. The city was instrumental for Dostoevsky to convey his ideas to the readers. At the same time, Dostoevsky played a vital role in building an essential part of the collective symbolico-cultural mythology of the city, which Vladimir Toporov, prominent Russian philologist, calls “Petersburg text of Russian literature”, which encompasses the works of many authors of 19 – early 20th century. This supratext, which is derived from the ideas, symbols, and the nature of the city, has established a uniform discourse, a way of conceptualising and interpreting the contrasts of Saint Petersburg. It is within this context that Dostoevsky’s original readers were experiencing his works. However, over the past 150 years, Saint Petersburg has undoubtedly evolved, and with that, Petersburg text takes on a new meaning, transforming the way of reading Dostoevsky. The purpose of this paper is to analyse the relevance of Petersburg text as a way to interpret the city experience today and uncover the way the Dostoevskyan legacy is memorialized in Saint Petersburg. I will look at the representations of Dostoevskyan legacy within Saint Peterburg’s modern-day urban culture, which include 1) Dostoevsky’s museum on Kuznechny Lane, 2) walking city tours of the locations of life and work of the author, as well as Crime and Punishment scenes, 3) Dostoevsky’s Day events on the first Saturday of July, and 4) public art. These symbols of reappropriating literary legacy will help to unveil the way Dostoevsky’s ideas are remembered by the contemporary non-academic readers. Employing secondary sources, I will provide analysis of the differences and similarities in perception of the Dostoevskyan literary legacy by his contemporaries and the readers of today through the experience of Saint Petersburg.

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