Department of Philosophy
Classroom: 301 Laws Hall
Office: 221 Hall Auditorium,
Office Hours: Tuesday & Wednesday (& by appointment)
Office Phone: (513) 529-4739
In this course we will be considering The Brothers Karamazov from the complementary angles of philosophy, theology, literary theory, and political science. The course will be divided into three main sections. The first section offers an introduction to the relationship philosophy-literature in general, and to Dostoevsky as a thinker in particular. In the second section we will be focusing on the intrinsic qualities of Dostoevsky’s novel as a writing with a distinct philosophical, political and theological content. At this stage discussions will be mostly clustered around Dostoevsky’s dealing with such topics as theodicy, suffering, redemption, rebirth, quest for earthly paradise, utopia, authenticity, Anti-Christ, foundations of morality, and other topics. Also, the genesis and structure of The Brothers Karamazov will be discussed in detail in this section. In the third section of the course, we will be experimentally considering some of the 20th century developments in the fields of philosophy, arts, literature, and politics precisely through the lens of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. At this stage, the course will briefly explore, from the particular vantage point provided by Dostoevsky’s novel:
One of the basic presuppositions of this course is that philosophy is to be found not only in philosophy books, but also in other places, such as works of fiction. Consequently, it invites/challenges students to learn how to detect a philosophical content in non-philosophical situations, how to recognize a philosophical problem when this is presented in a narrative form, or, in general, when it is displayed using stylistic modalities that are not practiced anymore by today’s philosophers (parables, fables, poems, etc.). One of the major scholarly advantages that such an approach brings forth is that philosophy comes to be considered in a broader, more comprehensive and pluralistic manner.
At the same time, another fundamental supposition on which this whole course is based is that the works of fiction are not confined to the specific study of literary scholars, but they have to be seen as open, multi-facetious, meaningful in a variety of ways and useful for a variety of purposes.
· The course will familiarize students with some of Dostoevsky’s works and the fundamental philosophical problems they raise.
· The course will make students realize the dialectical relationship between philosophy and literature, how philosophy overlaps with literature, and how relative disciplinary boundaries sometimes are.
· The course will help students understand the major role that language, style, and writing play in philosophy.
Bakhtin, Mihail (1984), Problems of
Dostoevsky’s Poetics, Edited and translated by Caryl; Introduction by Wayne
C. Booth (
Belknap, Robert (1989), The Structure of the Brothers
Belknap, Robert (1990), The Genesis of the Brothers
Berdyaev, Nicolas (1984), Dostoevsky. An
Interpretation, Translated by Donald Attwater (
* Dostoevsky, Fyodor (1994) Notes from Underground (
Dostoevsky, Fyodor (2002) The Karamazov
1. Research paper:
The bulk of the final grade (see below “Grading policy”) will be determined by the quality of the research paper. This piece is the culmination of students’ work during the whole semester. It must be on a course-related topic, designed by the student in consultation with the instructor. The research paper must be conceived of, structured, developed and written in such a way as to meet the standards of academic excellence in the humanities, and following the guidelines for submission of written work listed below. The three stages for the production of this research paper are: a) Submission of proposed topic, brief description and basic bibliography (1/2 pages). b) Submission of the first draft (4/5 pages), and c) Submission of the final draft (8/10 pages), at the end of the semester, within a portfolio. (For deadlines, please see “General Schedule of Events” below.)
2. Oral presentation:
Each student is expected to present the reading(s) for at least two sessions and then briefly conduct the subsequent discussion. A list of topics (readings) for which students can volunteer will be circulated at the beginning of the semester. Each oral presentation will be graded and will count toward the final grade. A good presentation means: a careful reading of the texts in question, placing these texts within the context of the author’s work, rendering the material into a coherent, well-structured, and agreeable form, and presenting it in a clear manner to the other students attending the class. For a good – to excellent – oral presentation grade, you are encouraged to read as much as you can by, and about, the author whose texts you decide to present. If you make a third presentation during the semester (in addition to the first two), that will be graded separately, and its grade will count toward the final grade, too. You are encouraged (although not required) to design your research paper in such a way as to be able to use in it those texts you have read for preparing your oral presentations.
3. Attendance and participation in class:
It is imperative that you attend every class. Please do not be late! Any unexcused absence will have an impact on your class participation/attendance grade (5% for each absence). After five (5) unexcused absences the instructor may, at his discretion, recommend the University Registrar to drop the student from the course. An absence is excused when you provide serious documented evidence about it (signed note from the physician, signed letter from the Dean, death notice, etc.) Fore more about class attendance please consult the 2005-2006 Student Handbook: http://www.miami.muohio.edu/documents_and_policies/handbook/ (“Class Attendance”). Active participation in classroom discussions includes (but is not limited to): posing relevant questions; making informed comments and formulating original points of view, establishing a fruitful dialogue with the other students during the class, etc. When formulating your points of view, remarks or comments, please do so in a respectful manner, in such a way as not to harm the feelings of the other members of the class.
4. Individual conferences:
Students are strongly encouraged to discuss with the instructor about any aspects of their work for this class, and in particular about their research paper. All students taking this course are encouraged to make appointments with the instructor in order to discuss issues related to the course. The instructor may ask you to come in at other times for discussing particular issues. Please feel free to email the instructor whenever you need to discuss with him aspects of your work.
Guidelines for Submission of Written Work:
· MLA Citation Style
· Word-process all written work; handwritten papers will not be accepted;
· Use standard font, in 12 point; double-spaced.
· Number your pages;
· Staple your pages together;
· At the top of the first page include your name, date, and essay title;
· Proofread and spell-check before bringing any papers to class.
· 10% Regular attendance of seminar meetings.
· 10% Active participation in classroom discussions
· 20% Oral presentations
· 20% First draft of the research paper
· 40% Final draft of the research paper
University Policies and Regulations:
The instructor of this course respects and upholds University policies and regulations pertaining to the observation of religious holidays; assistance available to the physically handicapped, visually and/or hearing impaired student; plagiarism; sexual harassment; and racial or ethnic discrimination. All students are advised to become familiar with the respective University regulations and are encouraged to bring any questions or concerns to the attention of the instructor.
Students with Disabilities:
In compliance with the
Plagiarism, or academic theft, is passing off someone else’s work as your own. Please note: plagiarism simply means using someone else’s ideas without acknowledging it (no matter if you use that person’s actual words or not). Regardless of your background, you are responsible for not plagiarizing. Plagiarism will be prosecuted; it can affect your permanent record. Being a plagiarizer is incomparably worse than being unoriginal! For more about plagiarism (and academic dishonesty in general), please consult 2005-2006 Student Handbook: http://www.miami.muohio.edu/documents_and_policies/handbook/ (“Academic misconduct”)
I. Introductory issues
· Wednesday (8/24)
o Topic: Introduction. Overview of the course.
o Discussion: Philosophy and interdisciplinarity
· Monday (8/29)
o Topic: The overlap philosophy/literature. The problem of genres in philosophy. “Literary genres” in philosophy: dialogue, confession, poetry, fables. The “philosophical novel”: specifics, examples, techniques.
o Discussion: Ways of embodying philosophical ideas
· Wednesday (8/31)
o Topic: The limits of the philosophical discourse. When words are not enough. Alternative forms of doing philosophy.
o Movie watching: “The Life of David Gale”
· Tuesday (9/06) (Monday classes meet this day; Monday is Labor Day)
o Topic: Philosophy as a “way of life” – philosophy as an art of dying. Philosophical martyrdom. The concept of “founding murder” in the history of Western philosophy (Socrates, Bruno, Patocka)
o Discussion: “The Life of David Gale”
· Wednesday (9/07)
o Topic: The image of the philosopher in Western literature (Plato, Voltaire, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche). The philosopher as a literary character. First encounter with Ivan Karamazov.
o Discussion: Do philosophers really need to exist “in flesh and blood”?
· Monday (9/12)
Topic: Introduction to
o Movie watching: “Fyodor Dostoevsky” (Series: Great Russian writers; 30 min.)
· Wednesday (9/14)
o Topic: Introduction to Dostoevsky II. Overview of the main writings and themes. The complexity of his work. Dostoevsky’s late political views. His religious (Orthodox) background.
o Discussion: How independent is (can be) one’s work from his/her personality?
· Monday (9/19)
o Topic: Dostoevsky and philosophy. Dostoevsky as a thinker. The influence of his work on the 20th century philosophy. The Brothers Karamazov and philosophy.
o Discussion: “literary philosophers” and “philosophical literati”
II. The World of The Brothers Karamazov
· Wednesday (9/21)
o Topic: The underground man as a predecessor of the Karamazovs. Solitude and alienation. Meaninglessness. Quest for stable existential ground.
o Discussion: The underground man and Ivan Karamazov
· Monday (9/26)
o Topic: The underground man and us. Dostoevsky as a visionary thinker.
o Movie Watching: “Happiness”
· Wednesday (9/28)
o Topic: Radion Roskolnikov as predecessor of Ivan Karamazov. “If God is dead, everything is permitted.” Murder as philosophical (self-)experimentation.
o Movie watching: “Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment” (Series: “Ten great writers of the modern world”)
· Monday (10/3)
o Topic: Complexity of The Brothers: at once, detective story, philosophical treatise, hagiographical writing, etc.
o Discussion: Dostoevsky’s unorthodoxy in using the established literary genres.
· Wednesday (10/5)
o Topic: The Karamazov family as a domestic hell.
o Movie watching: “The Celebration”
· Monday (10/10)
o Topic: The genesis of The Brothers Karamazov I
o Discussion: Imagination and imitation
· Wednesday (10/12)
o Topic: The genesis of The Brothers Karamazov II
o Discussion: The place of Dostoevsky’s personal experiences in the novel.
· Monday (10/17)
o Topic: Polyphony. Dostoevsky’s multiple voices. Bakhtin’s reading of Dostoevsky. The self and the others. Carnival in The Brothers
· Wednesday (10/19)
o Topic: Ivan is introduced. The discussion at the monastery. Ivan the “paradoxalist”: defender of radical theocracy and atheist at the same time.
o Why is Ivan holding contradictory views?
· Monday (10/24)
o Topic: The epistemological and the ethical corollaries of “If God does not exist.” Ivan’s godless epistemology. Ivan Karamazov and Kant. Ivan’s godless epistemology and “the antinomies of pure reason.”
o Discussion: “If God does not exist, then…” Then what?
· Wednesday (10/26)
o Topic: Ivan’s Father. The “cosmic farce” argument for the existence of God.
o Discussion: How (un)serious is this argument.
· Monday (10/31)
o Topic: “If God does not exist, then who is laughing at man?”
o Movie watching: “The Truman Show”
· Wednesday (11/2)
o Topic: The world as a farce of cruel God. Metaphysical scandal. Ivan’s Rebellion The suffering of children.
o Close reading: Chapter “Rebellion”
· Monday (11/7)
o Topic: The unaccountability of (certain) sufferings. Ivan returns the ticket.
o Close reading: Chapter “Rebellion”
· Wednesday (11/9)
o Topic: The Structure of The Karamazov Brothers
o Discussion: Dostoevsky the architect
· Monday (11/14)
o Topic: The Grand Inquisitor I. Freedom as burden. Human nature and personal freedom.
· Wednesday (11/16)
o Topic: The Grand Inquisitor II. Political theology. Dostoevsky and the Russian mysticism. Dostoevsky and Soloviev.
· Monday (11/21)
o Topic: The Grand Inquisitor III. The Grand Inquisitor’s perfect society. The Grand Inquisitor and the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.
o Discussion: “Darkness at ”
III. After The Brothers Karamazov
· Monday (11/28)
o Topic: Dostoevsky and Freud. Dostoevsky and the existentialists.
o Discussion: How indebted is Camus to Dostoevsky?
· Wednesday (11/30)
o Topic: Dostoevsky and Thomas Mann. Dostoevsky and Patocka
o Discussion: The devil.
· Monday (12/5)
o Topic: Dostoevsky and Tarkovsky.
o Movie Watching: “Andrei Rublev”
· Wednesday (12/7)
o Topic: Course’s conclusions
o Course evaluation by students.