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A.M. Gorky Institute
of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences

IWL RAS Publishing

A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature
of the Russian Academy of Sciences


Povarskaya 25a, 121069 Moscow, Russia



Types of publications

About the author:

Sergey L. Fokin, DSc in Philology, Professor, St. Petersburg State University of Economics, Sadovaya 21, 191023 St. Petersburg, Russia.

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The article dwells upon the reception of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s oeuvre in the works of one of the most prominent literary critics of the second half of the XXth century’s France Tzvetan Todorov. Following the history of ideas method aimed not so much at a systematic reconstruction of a doctrine but on intent attention to different contexts of realization of thought — biographical, historical, political, sociological — the author comes to conclusions unveiling a multilevel organization of the novel Notes from Underground, presented in a program article of the French scholar. He talks about the hero’s ideology, the text structure, the master-servant dialectics, the “being and other” philosophy and, finally, the author’s word spoken through Liza’s character that does not seem to fit any of the logics at work in Dostoevsky’s text. We conclude that Todorov’s ponderings on the multilevel organization of Notes from Underground allow for a deeper understanding of the abyss, failure and emptiness that Dostoevsky was to confront and that he untrusted to the character his unique experience of confrontation with human pettiness in man: penal servitude, roulette, love triangle, struggle for recognition.

  • Keywords: Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground, Todorov, French intellectual revolution, structuralism, master-servant dialectics.


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