Poor Folk (1846) Dostoevsky (in translation)
Dr. Rimma Volynska
The Literary Atmosphere
1840s: transition in literature from Romanticism to Realism.
• Romantics saw suffering derived from the oversaturation of emotion.
Reason vs. Emotion
• Associated with Classicism, the • Focus of Sentimentalism, belief
Enlightenment that emotions are wise and a better
o 18 century notions guide for one’s life.
o 19 century sees
dominance of feelings in
Naturalistic School: includes authors such as Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert.
• The lowly and insignificant are fleshed out.
• Focus is no longer on aristocratic, but rather the “urban filth,” the underpinnings of
o This was shocking in 1840s audiences.
Elements of Idealism:
• Art has no value without transformational element.
• Duty of the artist to transcend and transform the physical (i.e., real) world.
Vissarion Belinsky: renowned Russian critic who laid the foundations for modern
western literary criticism.
• Literature should be honest.
• Literature should reflect reality.
• Art should be judged for its social values as well as aesthetic values – the former
being of primary importance.
Belinsky hailed Poor Folk as a great literary event.
• Belinsky’s enthusiasm comes from the novel’s central issue of social structure and
o Poor Folk is the first time this is delicately laid to page.
• These “poor people” cannot rely on help from society, and are forced to rely on
good-hearted Christian genero