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Resurrection from the Underground: Feodor Dostoevsky

René Girard
Edited and Translated James G. Williams
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 120
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  • Book Info
    Resurrection from the Underground
    Book Description:

    In a fascinating analysis of critical themes in Feodor Dostoevsky's work, René Girard explores the implications of the Russian author's "underground," a site of isolation, alienation, and resentment. Brilliantly translated, this book is a testament to Girard's remarkable engagement with Dostoevsky's work, through which he discusses numerous aspects of the human condition, including desire, which Girard argues is "triangular" or "mimetic"-copied from models or mediators whose objects of desire become our own. Girard's interdisciplinary approach allows him to shed new light on religion, spirituality, and redemption in Dostoevsky's writing, culminating in a revelatory discussion of the author's spiritual understanding and personal integration.Resurrectionis an essential and thought-provoking companion to Dostoevsky'sNotes from the Underground.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-320-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword: René Girard since 1996
    (pp. vii-xii)
    James G. William

    Much has happened in René Girard’s life and work since I wrote the original foreword to this text in 1996. Girard has published three major works,¹ plus other books and articles. There are now a number of professional societies organized to discuss, criticize, and extend his creative interdisciplinary research and writing in anthropology, religion, sociology, and psychology. The relevance of his insights is now recognized also by investigators in cognitive science and physics.² The most momentous event for him personally was his election in 2005 to the French Academy, the most prestigious distinction for intellectuals in France. He is now...

  4. Foreword: René Girard
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    James G. William

    From one perspective René Girard has lived a quiet, uneventful life. But viewed from another angle, it has been a life of daring and courage. One view is that of the professor and family man, married for forty-five years, father of three children, grandfather of seven. For years he has followed the routine of rising at 3:30 A.M., working in his study until noon, and, until retirement in 1995, teaching or seeing students in the afternoon. Yet during the entire period of his career he has defied the intellectual fashions swirling about him. With his first two books,Deceit, Desire,...

  5. A Biographical Prologue
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
    James G. William

    For Dostoevsky scholars and those who are familiar with his work and historical context, this brief biographical sketch will not be necessary. For any other readers, however, it should be read before proceeding to this study of Dostoevsky. The basic biographical context for understandingResurrection from the Undergroundis given here. The reader may also consult the chronology of Dostoevsky’s life.

    Feodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky’s early circumstances were not of the sort to allow one to predict a literary career, let alone the career of a writer for whom “genius,” or some similar epithet, could be appropriately used. Born in 1821...

  6. Chronology of Feodor Dostoevsky
    (pp. xxv-2)
  7. CHAPTER 1 Descent into the Inferno
    (pp. 3-12)

    Contemporary critics readily say that writers create themselves in creating their work. This formula is eminently applicable to Dostoevsky as long as one does not confuse this twofold creative process with the acquisition of a technique or even with the perfect mastery of a field or subject.

    One should not compare the author’s successive works to the musical exercises by which musicians gradually increase their virtuosity. What is essential lies elsewhere and cannot be expressed initially except in a negative form. For Dostoevsky, to create oneself is to slay the old human state, prisoner as it is of aesthetic, psychological,...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Underground Psychology
    (pp. 13-28)

    In certain respects the Dostoevsky ofThe Insulated and Injuredis more alienated from his own proper genius than the Dostoevsky ofThe Double.It is even this remoteness—one is tempted to say this straying—that suggests a rupture is inevitable. But only the rupture is visible at this point, and not the imminence of genius. If Dostoevsky had gone mad in 1863 rather than starting to writeNotes from the Underground,it would have been easy to detect the foreshadowing of this madness inThe Insulted and Injured.And perhaps there was no other outcome for the Dostoevsky...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Underground Metaphysics
    (pp. 29-50)

    AfterNotes from the Underground,Dostoevsky composedCrime and Punishment,the work that was for a long time, and perhaps remains yet, his most celebrated Raskolnikov is a solitary dreamer, subject to alternations of exaltation and depression. He is obsessed with the fear of being ridiculed. He is thus an underground person, but he is more tragic than grotesque because he tries fiercely to test and surpass the invisible limits of his prison. The need for action, which for his underground predecessor was realized only in feeble and sorry gestures, leads this time to an atrocious crime. Raskolnikov kills, and...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Resurrection
    (pp. 51-74)

    The Shatov episode commences an overcoming of Slavophil ideology, and with the Kirillov episode is begun an overcoming of nihilism, both of which will be accomplished inThe Brothers Karamazov(1880). The serenity of the last novel is far removed fromDemons.The spirit of Stavrogin breathes through the vengeful caricatures which are sprinkled throughout the latter narrative, for example, that of the elder Verkhovensky or that of the writer Karmazinov, in whom it is not difficult to recognize Turgenev, the longtime literary enemy. The rancors accumulated since Dostoevsky’s literary debut come up to the surface. Some of the utterances...

  11. POSTFACE: Mimetic Desire in the Underground
    (pp. 75-90)

    I am grateful to my good friend James Williams for translating and editing with great care the foregoing essay on Dostoevsky. When I wrote it I had just published the original French version of a longer book on five European novelists, including Dostoevsky. In that book,Deceit, Desire, and the Novel,the chief principle of interpretation is the idea ofmimetic desire,which emerged from its creation and which has dominated my work ever since.

    The present book relies on mimetic desire, therefore, but not in very explicit fashion. In order to fit the original publisher’s requirements, I had to...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 91-92)
  13. Books by René Girard
    (pp. 93-94)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 95-95)