lect 4-6 The Idiot.doc

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University of Toronto St. George
St. Michael's College Courses

The Idiot Dostoyevsky • 1821, 10 yrs after Gogol • family of army doctor ◦ a plebeian • budding intelligentsia • becomes journalist • money is important in novel, but not the same way as gogol • obsession with social ranks • arrested in 1849 for reading a book ◦ convinced he was going to die, then exiled to Siberia ◦ 4 years of forced labour (only book allowed to read at this time was the bible) and 5 years of forced military service resulted (was prohibited from writing) • religious crisis: used to be a socialist atheist, after this experience, became extremely religious ◦ no longer westernized, deeply slavophile ▪ Russia should follow its own path, not emulate the Western ideas • ellipsis became more severe • came back a broken man – the punishment worked, and reformed him • also came back determined to write • saw himself as most faithful disciple of Gogol ◦ critics: “the new Gogol” • went to Europe with the “infernal” woman ◦ Dostoyevsky likes to be mistreated ◦ beginning of gambling problem ◦ compulsive personality • writing pace is unmatched, in terms of volume • money grows on tree ◦ money from inheritances ◦ money from shady dealings ◦ money from...glorified prostitution • Victorian writer – will not come out and talk straight ◦ stock character: the virtuous prostitute = Nastasha Crime and Punishment in1866 something else in 1867 Idiot in 1868 --- average of one novel per year • always writes in a hurry • no typewriter... marries his stenographer • Myshkin was wearing Swiss clothes, not suitable for Russia ◦ surreptitious self-commentary ◦ what is proper in the west, not proper in Russia: how does Russian lit find its voice after learning from and emulating western lit? • Opening reminiscent of Dead Soul's beginning ◦ a hero as the catalyst of action, moving the plot • Dostoyevsky admires French lit, but despises French culture ◦ find culture Catholic and atheist at the same time, decadent – capitalistic • first publication ever was a translation of French lit • brought up on 18~19C Gothic English/French novels • was not considered an artist ◦ too sensationalist ◦ language markedly different from writers such as Tolstoy in Russian • yet despite the sensationalistic aspects, still manages to produce a piece of art • unintended consequences and wayward charms ◦ structure of the novel not always int
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