18 may 2018
Few novelists have been as important for novel theorists and historians—as touchstone, foil, exemplar—as Fyodor Dostoevsky. Few novelists have elicited as intense an engagement from other novelists. Nabokov loved to hate him, Camus adapted Demons for the stage. His impact on Ralph Ellison is well established, and in J. M. Coetzee’s novel, The Master of Petersburg, Dostoevsky plays the starring role and surfaces in his other novels. His importance extends to non-literary fields, some remote from the humanities, including medicine, religious theory and practice, the history of politics and political theory, cognitive theory, intellectual history, psychoanalysis, philosophy, and others. Famously, he fascinated Nietzsche, and just as famously, Freud linked the theme of parricide in The Brothers Karamazov to Dostoevsky’s “hystero-epilepsy.” The former Archbishop of Canterbury wrote a monograph on him. The list goes on.
Our 2018 conference brings to the Center a group of scholars whose interest in Dostoevsky took them into other domains: comparative literary practice and theory, the global novel, novel theory, philosophy, media studies, and film. Our primary focus, then, is not on Dostoevsky’s novels per se, but rather on the role of the novelistic in generating new modes of scholarly inquiry. What is it about the novel that attracts such a range of inquiry and why has the study of the novel inspired disciplinary innovation? Do the answers to these questions lie in what we already know about the novel—as genre, narrative form, social discourse, social world, philosophical example—or in a new theory of the novel that these innovative interpretative methods might collectively suggest?