Earlier this week, my Great Books sections completed the discussion of Dostoevsky’s greatest. My colleague Frank Novak teaches The Magic Mountain instead, and his sections are also winding down on the Thomas Mann soon. (Here are a few thoughts on the two novels that I posted last year.)
Reading and discussion took longer than I’d thought, as the originally scheduled five-week span was necessarily extended to six-and-a-half weeks. Even there, we had to skip discussing large portions of Books 8 and 9. I recall my first semester at Pepperdine, when a student wrote in the course evaluations something along the line of “so much great stuff, so little time!” The comment easily applies to this case.
A masterwork like The Brothers Karamazov is meant to be read again, and I hope that my students will reread it in the future at their own pace and leisure. I think that at least some will. One student, for instance, said that it is her favorite book in the entire four-semester sequence of Great Books. Another clutched the book to her chest as if holding a baby or a special birthday gift. Justifiably, they and others felt that it was a substantial accomplishment to have gone through nearly a thousand pages.
My students still have an essay to write, and I expect a wide swath of topics as well as a range of interpretations. I also require a small assignment to create a visual parody of sorts. The idea comes from my colleague Jane Kelley Rodeheffer, who has taught this novel for a number of times in Minnesota and California. She would have students create a front page of a newspaper with headlines and stories taken from the massive novel. Fake news, one can say, that readers of the book should get a kick out of reading.
I update this assignment by widening the options to include newsletters, leaflets, advertisements, and social media. This post include some of the handiwork by my students.
First are social media. The following “Ivan’s Twitter” comes from the same student that makes the “Grushenka Instagram” on top.
Another student creates a couple of Facebook profiles, including one for Karamazov père.
So far (March 31), newspapers and newsletters remain the most popular choice. This weekly features at least four of the characters, and one could say that the three R’s of religion, romance, and reason are well represented by this foursome of very different people.
Since the bulk of the novel’s plot takes place in four days, a similar outlet – yezhenedel’no slukhi (еженедельно слухи) apparently means “gossipy weekly” – cleverly parodies events that occurred simultaneously. The title plays on “rushin’ in to trouble.” Get it?
From weeklies to dailies… First is the Russian Times. Note the date of publication, even though this page was submitted a week before April’s Fool.
The Times is followed by two consecutive front pages of the Russian Messenger. There’s a classic feel about this daily: the thick font, the photo of Grushenka reeking of golden Hollywood, etc.
Turning to newsletters, this one is devoid of illustrations. The title and headings, however, are instantly recognized.
I contribute one of my own as sample for this assignment. And then…
… a student picks on it and proceeds to create his own. Parody of a parody: it comes full circle.
Now onto the essay!