Turned Inside Out

E-book – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3493-5

Cloth Text – $99.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3492-8

Paper Text – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3491-1
Publication Date
May 2017
Page Count
184 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Turned Inside Out

Reading the Russian Novel in Prison
Steven Shankman

In Turned Inside Out: Reading the Russian Novel in Prison, Steven Shankman reflects on his remarkable experience teaching texts by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vasily Grossman, and Emmanuel Levinas in prison to a mix of university students and inmates. These persecuted writers—Shankman argues that Dostoevsky’s and Levinas’s experiences of incarceration were formative—describe ethical obligation as an experience of being turned inside out by the face-to-face encounter. Shankman relates this experience of being turned inside out to the very significance of the word “God,” to Dostoevsky’s tormented struggles with religious faith, to Vasily Grossman’s understanding of his Jewishness in his great novel Life and Fate, and to the interpersonal encounters the author has witnessed reading these texts with his students in the prison environment.
Turned Inside Out will appeal to readers with interests in the classic novels of Russian literature, in prisons and pedagogy, or in Levinas and phenomenology. At a time when the humanities are struggling to justify the centrality of their mission in today’s colleges and universities, Steven Shankman by example makes an undeniably powerful case for the transformative power of reading great texts.
About the Author

STEVEN SHANKMAN holds the UNESCO Chair in Transcultural Studies, Interreligious Dialogue, and Peace at the University of Oregon in Eugene. He is codirector of the UNESCO Crossings Institute for Intercultural Dialogue and Conflict-Sensitive Reporting at the University of Oregon.

Turned Inside Out makes many provocative interpretations of Dostoevskii, reminding us why he—and Levinas—are vital to re-read today.” —Slavonic & East European Review

"Prisons are places where you’re rocked to your core or, as Steven Shankman puts it, turned inside out. I urge you to join Shankman and his students as they encounter the great Russian novelists, and themselves, on a journey of suffering and redemption behind prison walls. A moving and innovative book."—Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking

"Shankman offers provocative new readings of Dostoevsky’s major novels that draw on both a deep understanding of the author and one of his greatest students, Emmanuel Levinas. The personal stories of Shankman and his students in and out of prison lend an urgency unusual in a work of literary criticism to the ethical issues explored in this book. Indispensable for any Dostoevsky scholar interested in the writer’s ethics, Turned Inside Out is also an inspiration to scholars, educators, and general readers alike who still believe—or are ready to believe—in the power of great literature to effect personal and social change."—Andrew D. Kaufman, founder of Books Behind Bars at the University of Virginia and author of Give War and Peace a Chance: Tolstoyan Wisdom for Troubled Times

"Steven Shankman’s volume is the product of an innovative pedagogical experiment... This volume would be useful for anyone teaching Dostoevsky’s great novels, as well as for undergraduates and general readers of Levinas and Dostoevsky who seek to identify a connection between classical Russian literature and the twentieth-century quest for personal and social redemption." —The Russian Review