Professor Chloë Kitzinger

In English. No prerequisites.

The Brothers Karamazov (1879-80), Fyodor Dostoevsky's final novel, is a classic of world literature. It also crystallized a set of ideas about Russian identity that continue to shape the national discourse, including the propaganda surrounding Russia's brutal war of aggression in Ukraine. In this course, we will read The Brothers Karamazov with close attention to its narrative and thematic structure, exploring the hard philosophical, religious, and aesthetic questions the novel asks as well as the intractable political problems with which it presents us as readers now. We will place the novel in context by reading selections from Dostoevsky’s earlier fiction and journalism as well as selections from his lifelong “bookshelf," including the Book of Job, excerpts from saints’ lives, and works of Friedrich Schiller, Honoré de Balzac, Alexander Pushkin, and Nikolai Gogol. Finally, we will discuss echoes of The Brothers Karamazov into the 20th-21st centuries: dialogues with Dostoevsky from writers like Virginia Woolf, Sigmund Freud, Albert Camus, Ralph Ellison, Octavia Butler, and Ursula K. Le Guin, as well as contemporary responses to the novel in light of the ongoing war. All readings and discussion in English; no previous knowledge of Russian literature required. Satisfies learning goals for the Russian and Comparative Literature majors and minors and the Russian Major requirement of a 400-level course.