Great Conversations on Great Books

Online course:
Dostoevsky and Philosophy, ENLS 290
Bucknell Summer Session, May 25 to July 3, 2020
6:30 to 10:20 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, online

Meets Bucknell W2, Global Connections, Arts and Humanities, and Arts and Humanities Learning Goals requirements, and general and English elective requirements.

Prof. Alf Kentigern Siewers

Dostoevsky’s novels are acknowledged to be among the greatest works of literature, yet they also illustrate the close relationship between literature and philosophy. This course, which will serve as a basic introduction and assumes no prior knowledge, will focus on Dostoevsky’s two novels Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, in English translation, along with short philosophical readings. The latter will highlight the relation between his fiction and modern philosophical perspectives such as Nihilism, Christian existentialism, and anti-totalitarian Russian social philosophy. Dostoevsky’s beautiful psychological and spiritual writing will be considered partly also for its critique of modern secular life, which helped lay a groundwork for literary resistance to totalitarianism in the twentieth century. Our explorations of literature and philosophy will be introductory but allow students if they wish to explore more advanced work independently.

The syllabus will consist of reading and discussing Dostoevsky’s two most acclaimed novels, Crime and Punishment in our first six meetings, and The Brothers Karamazov in the last six meetings (half of the six-week summer session for each). There will be a short paper on each novel, which can be revised, and a short reading-reflection blog for each class, except when the papers are due.