English 24

Freshman Seminar: Crime and Punishment

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2014 Tracy, Robert
Tracy, Robert
Mon. 3-5 (Sept. 8-Oct. 27 only) Room L20 of Unit I (2650 Durant Ave.)

Book List

Recommended: Dostoevsky, Fyodor (translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky): Crime and Punishment


In Crime and Punishment (1866), the main characters are two intelligent young men (temporarily college drop-outs because they cannot afford the tuition) and two remarkable young women, in St. Petersburg, Russia, about the time of the American Civil War. There are two murders, an astute detective, a “holy fool,” a young prostitute, and a villain. Dostoevsky’s characters are as fully developed as those of Dickens, but at the same time they are walking/talking ideas; the conflict between murderer and detective is also a conflict between “Western” ideas and “Russianness.” This seminar will examine the conflict of ideas, but will equally focus on how to read a serious and complex psychological novel. We will be looking at WHAT Dostoevsky does with his characters, actions, and ideas, but also HOW he does it—how he sets scenes, manipulates characters and plot. I am hoping for close readers, and while I expect we will all reach the last page (551), I am primarily interested in your response to the book’s ideas, and your understanding of how Dostoevsky used the devices of a novelist to dramatize those ideas.

This is an interactive seminar, not a lecture course. Reading assignments are intended to provoke discussion among seminar participants. I expect you to come to class prepared to talk about what you have read, and urge you to start reading. Please read Crime and Punishment Part 1, chapters 1 and 2, before our first meeting.

Please note: This class will meet Sept. 8 through Oct. 27 only.

This 1-unit course may not be counted as one of the twelve courses required to complete the English major.

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