Dostoevsky's Russian chauvinism and antisemitism have long posed problems for his readers and critics. How could the author of "The Brothers Karamazov" also be the source of the slurs against Jews in "Diary of a Writer"? And where is the celebrated Christian humanist in the nationalist outbursts of "The Idiot"? These enigmas - the coexistence of humanism and hatred, faith and doubt - are linked, Susan McReynolds tells us, in "Redemption and the Merchant of God". Her book analyzes Dostoevsky's novels and Diary to show how the author's anxieties about Christianity can help solve the riddle of his antisemitism as well as that of his Russian messianism. McReynolds' reading demonstrates Dostoevsky suffered from a profound discomfort with the crucifixion as a vehicle for redemption. Through his work, she traces this ambivalence to certain beliefs and values that Dostoevsky held consistently throughout his life. And she reveals how this persistent ambivalence about the crucifixion led Dostoevsky to project what he didn't like about Christianity onto the Jews - and to invest those aspects of the crucifixion that he could approve with the "Russian idea."
A radical rereading of one of the Western canon's most revered and perplexing authors, McReynolds' book is also a major reconfiguring of Dostoevsky's intellectual biography and a significant contribution to literary and cultural studies.
Table of Contents
Introduction Speaking with the Devil; Part One; Chapter One "I Am Not an Expert at Lulling to Sleep"; The Struggle between Faith and Doubt in Dostoevsky's Writings; Chapter Two "He Gave His Son"; The Problem of the Crucifixion as Child Sacrifice; Chapter Three Disraeli and the Merchant God; Victims and Villains, Jews and Europe; Chapter Four A Synagogue Mistaken for a Church; Dostoevsky's Demon and the Jews; Part Two; Chapter Five "I Have the Heart of a Lamb"; Roots of the Russian and Jewish Ideas and the Problem of the Crucifixion in Poor Folk; Chapter Six "God Sent Her as a Reward for Our Sufferings"; The Origins of Dostoevsky's Preoccupation with Child Sacrifice in the Dialogue between Time and The Insulted and Injured; Chapter Seven Sources of Dostoevsky's Antisemitism in the Resemblance of Christians and Jews in Notes from the House of the Dead; Chapter Eight "I Don't Want Your Sacrifice"; The Morality of the Son in Crime and Punishment; Chapter Nine From Prince Christ to the Russian Christ; Problems of Resurrection in The Idiot and the Development of Dostoevsky's National Messianism; Chapter Ten "This Is What I Cannot Bear"; The Obliteration of Moral Distinctions through the Crucifixion in Demons; Chapter Eleven "You Can Buy the Whole World"; Zosima's Christian Faith and the Jewish Idea in the Diary of a Writer.
Susan McReynolds is an assistant professor of Slavic languages and literatures at Northwestern University. She is currently editing a new Norton Critical Edition of The Brothers Karamazov.