Confronting Bakhtin's formative reading of Dostoevsky to recover the ways the novelist stokes conflict and engages readers—and to explore the reasons behind his adversarial approach
Like so many other elements of his work, Fyodor Dostoevsky's deliberate deployment of provocation was both prescient and precocious. In this book, Lynn Ellen Patyk singles out these forms of incitement as a communicative strategy that drives his paradoxical art. Challenging, revising, and expanding on Mikhail Bakhtin's foundational analysis in Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, Patyk demonstrates that provocation is the moving mover of Dostoevsky's poetics of conflict, and she identifies the literary devices he uses to propel plot conflict and capture our attention. Yet the full scope of Dostoevsky's provocative authorial activity can only be grasped alongside an understanding of his key themes, which both probed and exploited the most divisive conflicts of his era. The ultimate stakes of such friction are, for him, nothing less than moral responsibility and the truth of identity.
Sober and strikingly original, compassionate but not uncritical, Dostoevsky's Provocateurs exposes the charged current in the wiring of our modern selves. In an economy of attention and its spoils, provocation is an inexhaustibly renewable and often toxic source.
Introduction. “Why don’t we reduce all this reasonableness to dust”: An Introduction to Dostoevskian Provocation
Chap. 1. “Or I am not I”: Ontological Provocation in The Double
Chap. 2. “I’ll say it in the whole world’s face”: Provoking Confession and Provoking Comedy in Notes from Underground
Chap 3. “That a girl!” Dostoevsky’s Feminist Provocation in The Idiot
Chap 4. “No one is pleased and everyone is angry”: The Diary of a Right-Wing Provocateur
Chap 5. “But the Devil was overcome”: The End of Provocation in The Brothers Karamazov
Conclusion. “I came not to send peace”: Problems in Dostoevsky’s Provocative Authorship
“A fantastically interesting and provocative book. Dostoevsky’s Provocateurs constitutes a particularly timely and rich contribution to Dostoevsky scholarship, work on Russian thought, media and cultural studies, and the field of sociological approaches to literature.” —Kate Holland, author of The Novel in the Age of Disintegration: Dostoevsky and the Problem of Genre in the 1870s (Northwestern University Press, 2013)
“A tour de force—Patyk’s conception of provocation as the driving dynamics of Dostoevsky’s poetics and their implication of the reader rings true on every page. Brimming with brilliant, revealing interpretations that integrate A Writer’s Diary convincingly with the author’s novels, Dostoevsky’s Provocateurs is set to become a vital touchstone for generations of scholars and students to come.” —Sarah Young, author of Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” and the Ethical Foundations of Narrative: Reading, Narrating, Scripting