Dostoevsky’s first great novel is sometimes described not as a “whodunit,” but as a “whydunit.” Raskolnikov’s motivations are stated repeatedly, yet they remain mysterious. To uncover the reasons for his actions, we need to attend not only to what Raskolnikov tells us, but also to what Dostoevsky shows us. Our primary text is the novel itself, which we will read in installments.
The textbook for this course is the Norton Critical Editions version of Crime and Punishment, translated and edited by Michael R Katz (2019). It contains critical essays that will be read as part of the course. Participants should acquire this text before class begins.
April – June 2023
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Dostoevsky’s first great novel, in which the protagonist plans and performs murder, is sometimes described not as a “whodunit,” but as a “whydunit.” Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov’s motivations are stated repeatedly, yet they remain mysterious. In order to uncover the reasons for his actions, we need to attend not only to what Raskolnikov tells us, but also to what Dostoevsky shows us.
Raskolnikov is far from an Objectivist hero: Dostoevsky’s explicit morality is not rational self-interest , and Dostoevsky’s explicit epistemology is not reason. If John Galt appeals to the hero in one’s soul, Raskolnikov exemplifies at times the villain in the soul—and, in that, he is not alone in the novel. Our primary text is the novel itself. Students in this course should plan to read the novel itself, in installments, with the attention it deserves. The closer we get, the better it looks. (A detailed reading schedule for our course text will be available in advance.)
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