The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov: Worlds of the Novel

Robin Feuer Miller With a New Preface
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Brothers Karamazov
    Book Description:

    Fyodor Dostoevsky completed his final novel-The Brothers Karamazov-in 1880. A work of universal appeal and significance, his exploration of good and evil immediately gained an international readership and today "remains harrowingly alive in the face of our present day worries, paradoxes, and joys," observes Dostoevsky scholar Robin Feuer Miller. In this engaging and original book, she guides us through the complexities of Dostoevsky's masterpiece, offering keen insights and a celebration of the author's unparalleled powers of imagination.

    Miller's critical companion toThe Brothers Karamazovexplores the novel's structure, themes, characters, and artistic strategies while illuminating its myriad philosophical and narrative riddles. She discusses the historical significance of the book and its initial reception, and in a new preface discusses the latest scholarship on Dostoevsky and the novel that crowned his career.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15172-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Preface to the Yale Edition
    (pp. viii-xvi)
  4. [Illustration]
    (pp. xvii-xvii)
  5. Note on the References and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xviii-xx)
  6. Chronology: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Life and Work
    (pp. xxi-xxvi)
  7. Literary and Historical Context
    • 1 Historical Context
      (pp. 1-3)

      In January 1879 readers of the conservativeRussian Heraldturned to the first installment ofThe Brothers Karamazovwith excitement and intense expectation. The appearance of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s newest and last novel was, quite simply, an event. Before undertaking a reading ofThe Brothers Karamazov,or for that matter, before reading any work of Russian literature, it is helpful for the Western reader to keep in mind that Russian literature is—and has traditionally been—taken very seriously by its audience. Why is this? Why is so much value placed on the word in the context of artistic discourse? The...

    • 2 The Importance of The Brothers Karamazov
      (pp. 4-6)

      By using the phrase “greatest representative,” I am taking a stand in an ongoing debate among critics about the nature and the validity of affirming that “great works” and a canon even exist. A book such as this one, an introductory volume that is part of a series, is in itself an affirmation of both ideas. Despite the widespread attack on the canon, I suspect that certain works, among themThe Brothers Karamazov,will continue to be read, not because they subtly support the existence of certain reigning power structures but because of their aesthetic qualities, their passion, and the...

    • 3 Critical Reception
      (pp. 7-10)

      The critical reception ofThe Brothers Karamazouhas been extraordinary and, whether positive or negative, intense. All of Dostoevsky’s novels were published serially in the thick journals of the day, and each installment provoked discussion about both its literary qualities and its role in that great ongoing polemic about Russia and her future.

      Toward the end of his life, as he was working onThe Brothers Karamazov,Dostoevsky delivered his famous Pushkin speech. On 7 June 1880, on the night before his speech he wrote at midnight to his wife about the amazing reception he was receiving. Much of it...

  8. A Reading
    • 4 Of Prefaces, Preludes, and Parodies PART I: BOOKS I, II, AND III
      (pp. 13-47)

      Dostoevsky, more than any other Russian novelist of the nineteenth century, tended in both his novels and his short stories to observe to some degree Aristotle’s unities of time, place, and action. Part I ofThe Brothers Karamazovis no exception: its action encompasses a single day within the small, provincial fictional town of Skotoprigonevsk (in Russian this name signifies the place where cattle are herded together, or “cattlepen”). Yet these unities that Dostoevsky imposes in fact demarcate the opposite, for this single day teems with the memories and foreshadowings of other days, with events which have long since occurred...

    • 5 The Deep Heart’s Core PART II: BOOKS IV, V, AND VI
      (pp. 48-79)

      Part II extends through the second day of the action of the novel. By now, as with any successful work of art, the reader has entered a structural domain in which the relationship between signifier and signified is different from what is in the real world: such details as bad odors, bad breath, kisses, stones, and bitten fingers become resonant semantic tags for the metaphysical and ethical paradoxes Dostoevsky explores.

      The theme of laceration(nadryv)hovers over Book IV and provides a thread of continuity among characters who are otherwise diverse: the hermit monk Father Ferapont, Katerina Ivanovna, Lise Khokhlakova,...

    • 6 The Plot Quickens PART III: BOOKS VII, VIII, AND IX
      (pp. 80-98)

      With Part III, Book VII, the second half of the novel commences. From here on the present takes precedence over the past. The history of the Karamazov family, Ivan’s poem about the Grand Inquisitor, and the life and thoughts of Zosima have prepared an extraordinarily elaborate structure. The reader can now respond to the rapidly ensuing events of the plot. Indeed, it is plot which dominates the second half of the novel. We read the events of the second half in the language learned in the first: the mythologies explicated in Parts I and II will necessarily order our response...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 7 Varieties of Guilty Experience PART IV: BOOKS X, XI, XII, AND THE EPILOGUE
      (pp. 99-133)

      Although Mitya’s epiphanic vision of the babe occurs in August, it had been set in a dream landscape “early in November”(v nachale noyabr’)(BK, 478). The next book of the novel, Book X, “The Boys,” opens with the words, “It was the beginning of November”(Noyabr’ v nachale)(BK, 486). The month of November plays a key role in many of Dostoevsky’s fictional works, fromThe DoubletoThe Brothers Karamazov,and has a mysterious link with the phenomenon of spiritual crisis—as indeed it does in this novel for Mitya, for Ivan in Book XI, and for Kolya...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 134-138)
  10. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 139-148)
  11. Index
    (pp. 149-156)