HOW DOSTOEVSKY PORTRAYS WOMEN IN HIS NOVELS
A Feminist Analysis

Author: Briggs, Katherine Jane
Year:2009
Pages:352
ISBN:0-7734-3774-6
978-0-7734-3774-6
Price:239.95
This study explores the relationship between public work and influence, and private faith and spiritual development, through the female characters in Dostoevsky's novels; and also the influence of one writer upon another. The intention was, first, to establish whether, in literary terms, women may be viewed as characters in their own right, rather than merely as symbols or consorts for the men; and, secondly, whether, from a feminist theological perspective, Dostoevsky takes seriously the experience of women in terms of their relationships and work, Christian faith and spiritual development, and conflict with personal and institutional evil.

Reviews

“The standard view of Dostoevsky’s presentation of women was that either he was a misogynist (the view of feminist critic Barbara Heldt and others) or that he was merely not very interested in women, a view perhaps first represented by the Russian thinker of the early twentieth century, Nikolay Berdyaev, but expressed by others since. This author takes issue with both these positions. From her own feminist theological perspective, she argues very persuasively that Dostoevsky does take seriously the experience of women in terms of their relationships and work, Christian faith and spiritual development, and their struggles against personal and institutional evil. She goes further to ask whether Dostoevsky might even be a considered a feminist in his depiction of women.
This is an exemplary work in all regards. This author’s challenging ideas are presented in a lucid yet sophisticated style, which should appeal to students as well as to more experienced scholars. Each chapter begins with a proper, contextualizing introduction, and she always shows good awareness of the latest critical material – and is not afraid to challenge it as appropriate.” – Prof. Joe Andrew, Keele University

“Of all Russia’s great nineteenth-century literature, Dostoevsky’s works resonate most powerfully with the problems besetting modernity. His sympathetic portrayal of women’s dilemmas, anxieties and spiritual quests has great relevance to present feminist theological discourse. Briggs’s study amply demonstrates how Dostoevsky’s female characters, in their diverse social roles, confront issues very relevant to our twenty-first-century world, the maltreatment of women and the abuse of children, alcoholism, family breakdown, crime, the harmful effects of the absence of mothers on children, and the erosion of common moral values” – Dr Diane O. Thompson, University of Cambridge

“This work initiates a new conversation between contemporary feminist theology and a substantial body of classic literature; and raises questions about ways in which Dostoevsky’s sympathetic portrayal of female experience might contribute to feminist theological discourse today. However, the focus is not confined to feminist thought. Through her study of relationships between men, women, and children, and the influence of Christian faith on family life both now and then, Dr Briggs makes a significant contribution to scholarship, both in the appreciation of the works of Dostoevsky, and in the application of his theological thought to Christian life today.” – The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Transliteration and references
Chronology of Dostoevsky’s life and publications
Foreword by Professor Joe Andrew
1 Introduction
1.1: Rationale and methodology
1.2: A ‘new word’ for feminist theologians
1.3: Theology and literature
1.4: Feminist theology and women’s experience
1.5: Thematic development
1.6: Literary theory and interpretation of the text
1.7: Structure and development
1.8: A new conversation
2 Dostoevsky’s life: a biographical sketch
2.1: Status of the biography of the writer
2.2: Dostoevsky’s early years
2.3: Formative adult experiences
2.4: Dostoevsky’s wives, daughters, and friends
2.5: The Decembrist wives
2.6: Dostoevsky’s view of art
2.7: Dostoevsky’s artistic response to the influence of women
3 Development of a theological perspective in the early novels
3.1: Introduction
3.2: Poor Folk
3.3: Netochka Nezvanova
3.4: Notes from Underground
3.5: Conclusion
4 Crime and Punishment
I: INTRODUCTION
4.1: Critical views of Crime and Punishment
4.2: Critical views of Sonya
II: SONYA AND RASKOLNIKOV: THE PORTRAIT OF A RELATIONSHIP
4.3: Introducing Sonya
4.4: Enter Sonya
4.5: Sonya visits Raskolnikov
4.6: Raskolnikov’s first visit to Sonya
4.7: Raskolnikov’s second visit to Sonya
4.8: Raskolnikov’s third visit to Sonya
III: MOTHERS, DAUGHTERS, AND SISTERS
4.9: Women’s voices
4.10: The sister: Avdotya Romanovna (Dunya)
4.11: The mother, Pulcheria Alexandrovna
4.12: The mother writes to her son
4.13: The stepmother, Katerina Ivanovna
IV: THE SYMBOLIC SIGNIFICANCE OF CLOTHING
4.14: The role of the seamstress
V: THE EPILOGUE TO CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
4.15: Metanoia: conversion or change of heart?
VI: CONCLUSION
4.16: Sonya’s ‘new word’ for Raskolnikov 5 Idiot
I: INTRODUCTION
5.1: A ‘perfectly beautiful’ human being
5.2: Social context and setting
5.3: Female relationships: a feminist theological perspective
5.4: Woman as heroine or victim?
II: ICONIC REPRESENTATION
5.5: Images of Christ
5.6: Portrayal of beauty in women
5.7: The disappearing heroine
III: WOMEN IN IDIOT
5.8: Lizaveta Prokofyevna Yepanchina
5.9: Nastasya Filippovna and Aglaya
5.10: Letters and meetings
5.11: Nastasya Filippovna’s letters to Aglaya
IV: MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS; SISTERS AND RIVALS
5.12: Mimesis and the art of conversation
5.13: Part One
5.14: Part Two
5.15: Part Three
5.16: Part Four
V: CONCLUSION
5.17: Development of the concept of beauty in human relationships
6 Krotkaya
6.1: Introduction
6.2: Questions of form
6.3: Questions of translation and intertextuality
6.4: Chapter headings
6.5: Questions raised by the Pawnbroker
6.6: Setting
6.7: Duality (antithetical pairs)
6.8: Points of view
6.9: Time
6.10: Peripeteia
6.11: The duel
6.12: The Pawnbroker as the ‘double’ – the split personality
6.13: Dreams
6.14: The song and the voice
6.15: Power and revenge
6.16: The icon
6.17: Iconic representation in Krotkaya
6.18: Conclusion
7 Brothers Karamazov
I: INTRODUCTION
7.1: The concept of personal sacrifice in loving relationships
II: ‘A NICE LITTLE FAMILY’
7.2: Family relationships
III: ‘WOMEN OF FAITH’
7.3: The sacrificial love of the mother
IV: LIZA KHOKHLAKOVA
7.4: The daughter’s point of view
7.5: The mother’s point of view
7.6: Liza confronts her demons
V: KATERINA AND GRUSHENKA
7.7: ‘Sisters and rivals’ in Brothers Karamazov
7.8: Katerina and Grushenka meet Alyosha
7.9: Character of Katerina
7.10: Character of Grushenka
VI: DREAMS
7.11: Grushenka’s dream
7.12: Dmitri’s dream
7.13: Liza’s dreams
VII: THE TRIAL
7.14: The final confrontation between Katerina and Grushenka
VIII: CONCLUSION
7.15: The example of the Mother of God in personal and family relationships
7.16: Maternal grief and Christian forgiveness
8 Conclusion
8.1: Summary of thematic references and questions
8.2: A feminist theological response
8.3: Diaries and letters
8.4: Dostoevsky as journalist and novelist
8.5: Mothers and daughters
8.6: What is new for feminist theologians in this study?
8.7: Concluding remarks
Appendix A: Child abuse themes
Appendix B: Matryosha (Devils)
Bibliography
Index