Friday, December 13, 2002

The Jewish Ethics Challenge

Questions--and answers--for starting arguments.
Whose classroom is this, anyway? is an organization of parents who are disturbed that sociopolitical agendas have been allowed to permeate college courses and orientation programs.

What do you think of this site? What are your thoughts on advocacy in the college classroom? Can it be eliminated entirely? Should it be?

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

One of the most interesting things about 'Brothers K' to me is D's expressed intention to write a subsequent book about Alyosha which this book only prepares us for. Here's what I found on Google:

[Dostoyevsky] planned to write a sequel to 'The Brothers Karamazov' in which, twenty years later, his hero Alyosha would leave his monastery cell and become a revolutionary and die for his idealism. He "would have searched for the truth and in his quest would naturally have become a revolutionary," Dostoyevsky said. See Grossmann, p. 587 Joyce Carol Oates in note #8 in an article on 'The Dispossessed'

It is said that Alyosha was to have become involved with revolutionists and to have committed a political crime, - it will be recalled that during Dostoevsky's last years the terrorists were increasingly active and, indeed, his own death antedated by one month the assassination of the czar. The possibilities of such a novel as this projected sequel fairly dazzle the imagination. But there is no need to speak of might-have-beens. The work as it stands is sufficient to engage profoundly the mind and the emotions of the reader, and to leave him shaken by a sense of the large potentialities of the soul. Avrahm Yarmolinsky on the site Jaq recommended (end of the article)

In a russian book on Dostoevsky(printed circa 1960), which I have at home, it states that notes made by Dosty on the ideas that the sequel would include were kept by his wife after Fyodor's death. It was mentioned that the book was to take place in 30 years after the events of the first book and concentrate on the life of the now middle aged Alyosha. He was to change dramatically in those years after a long love with Lise, which was to be full of pain and unhappiness. Alyosha was to leave the church and fully re-enter the society. from this thread which mentions the title as being 'Life of a Great Sinner'

I believe the work you are thinking of is 'Life of a Great Sinner', in it's entirety it was planned to emcompass Alyosha's leaving the monastary, his later debauchery, and finally his conversion back to faith. I believe I read about this in Joseph Frank's brilliant biography...

In 1868, Leo Tolstoy had finished his epic novel, War and Peace. Readers and critics loved the book. Dostoevsky, inspired and perhaps also envious, began to consider writing an epic of his own. He wanted to write a grand book, even longer than Tolstoy's, that would give him room to express his philosophies regarding the spiritual dilemmas of the modern Russian man. This epic - first titled Atheism and later The Great Sinner - was to be "the story of a Russian skeptic who, after many years of moving back and forth among all sorts of theologies and popular sects, in the end finds the Russian Orthodox religion and the Russian soul" (quoted from Grossman's biography). The Great Sinner was originally designed to contain five volumes, connected by one hero. The five books would eventually be distilled down to one: Brothers Karamazov. again, from the Dartmouth site. (This article goes on to chronicle how D's plan's changed, inspired by an ideological murder, from which he wrote 'Demons'.

I am very sorry that we didn't get the chance to read what might have come.

Monday, December 09, 2002

Russian Icon: the Virgin Odigitria.

In keeping with The Brothers K, I did a little searching for Russian icons, since I noticed that Dostoevsky tells us several times about the elder Zosima bowing to the icon, and the like. I have to confess a bit of ignorance here: is an Icon a religious picture, held in Orthodox tradition to be spiritually significant?

Sunday, December 08, 2002

I found a good site on Brothers K here.

My take on Brothers K: I give it a six. It's got a good beat, and I can dance to it!

But seriously, I'm enjoying the book quite a bit, although it's proving to be very slow going for me. My approach to Brothers K is rather like the tortoise's approach to beating the hare. (When my mother spied my copy of the book on my desk, she snorted and said, "You're going to be reading that thing forever!") I do have to keep reminding myself that it takes place in Tsarist Russia, but it's interesting to see some derisive remarks made about "atheistic socialists" in a book written years before the Marxist Revolution.

Thus far in the book (I'm just starting Book Three, "The Sensualists"), a major theme seems to be crime and what sort of state is best equipped to deal with criminals. We are told that an ecclesiastical state, in which the Church has become the State, is best, because in such a state men would know that by committing crimes they are not merely committing crimes against their fellow men or against their State, but against Christ himself; thus, excommunication becomes the most horrible of punishments. This seems to ignore problems of doctrinal differences that inevitably arise whenever two Christians inhabit a room, much less millions of them inhabiting a nation, and unless I missed it, nothing is said of how such a state would react to unbelievers, if they even admit that unbelief is even possible. So, what do we think of Dostoevsky's ecclesiastical state?

And for an interesting "compare-and-contrast" exercise, check out Den Beste's take on the foundations of law, posted just this week.

[I'm assuming that we should keep front-page posts about Brothers K to a single topic, and if we have something else we want to bring up, we should do so in a new post? Otherwise, the comment sections might get hard to follow.]