First-Year Studies: Dostoevsky and the West


Dostoevsky is often considered the most Russian of writers. He was, however, deeply influenced by his reading of contemporary Western European literature. Among Russian writers, he is also remarkable for the extent of his influence outside of Russia. This course will read Dostoevsky’s major novels in the context of the non-Russian works that precede and follow them. Our reading of Crime and Punishment, for example, will begin with Poe, Wilkie Collins, and Balzac and finish with Nabokov and Robert Bresson. While we will focus on Western Europe and the United States, we will also consider the work of at least two readers of Dostoevsky who claimed him from other parts of the world: J. M. Coetzee and Akira Kurosawa. Other texts will include Notes from Underground, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov, as well as works by Rousseau, Benjamin Constant, Victor Hugo, Dickens, Ralph Ellison, and Walker Percy.