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Title: Beholden by Love: A Study in the Apophasis of Dostoevsky’s Poetics
Authors: Zhernokleyev, Denis
Advisors: Emerson, Caryl
Contributors: Slavic Languages and Literatures Department
Keywords: Apophasis
Subjects: Literature
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Dostoevsky’s visual world is not only highly unstable but often grotesquely distorted. In this dissertation I offer a way of understanding this instability and distortion as part of the apophatic movement of Dostoevsky’s poetics. Since for Dostoevsky an image never fully corresponds to reality, all representation is inevitably an alteration. Distortion in Dostoevsky, therefore, is not its own kind of aesthetic but an intensification of that which is inherently true of any aesthetic experience. However, by pushing visual decomposition in his novels to the point of grotesqueness Dostoevsky does not merely seek to make a rhetorical point but to occasion an epiphany wherein the aesthetic is renounced in favor of a non-ethical religious perception. In the first chapter I survey Dostoevsky’s pessimism as regards the epistemic realm, concluding that Dostoevsky understood vision to be fundamentally given to fascination and, as a result, capable of knowing truth only as distortion. Whenever this distorted inner truth is related to the other, it inevitably comes out as a malicious effort to enflame and thus control the other’s imagination. In the second chapter, I consider what Dostoevsky’s disillusionment with the epistemic realm entails for his idea of aesthetics. By explicating The Idiot I demonstrate how Dostoevsky arrives at the need to renounce aesthetic perception as a fatal enchantment of the soul. Renunciation of aesthetics, however, is not a resignation but an effort to harness the nihilism of the aesthetic vision in service of the apophatic movement. Apophaticism affirms truth as knowable only in its absence. By exacerbating that which aesthetic perception fails to see, Dostoevsky opens his poetics to the possibility of radically new vision. In the concluding chapter, therefore, I examine the nature of Dostoevsky’s apophaticism by arguing that it follows a distinctly Johannine blueprint. Through a reading of Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov, two of Dostoevsky’s most explicitly religious novels, I show that Dostoevsky formulates his own principle of epistemic rebirth by weaving a Johannine theology of resurrection into his poetic structure.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Slavic Languages and Literatures

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