Trinity College

The Theology of Dostoevsky

Course Code: 
Last Offered: 
Winter/Spring 2021
Next Offered: 
Summer 2024

Fyodor Dostoevsky stands among the giants of world literature, and is considered by many to be the finest novelist of all time. Often discussed for his contributions to 19th and 20th Century philosophical thought (especially existentialism), Russian politics, literary aesthetics, and reflective psychology, Dostoevsky's work is also profoundly and explicitly religious, framed in the context of his Russian Orthodox faith. While Dostoevsky spent much of his early career as a secularist, his best works were composed after his return to religious faith by way of influences like the elders of the Optina monastery and Slavophile thinkers. By the time of his death, Dostoevsky had developed a unique approach to theology, religious anthropology, and spirituality that continues to exert a profound influence on the Orthodox Church and the Christian world more broadly.

In this course we will explore Fyodor Dostoevsky especially as a theologian and religious anthropologist. Dostoevsky's choice to express most of his best insights through fiction make any exploration of his theological mindset both highly challenging and highly rewarding. Join us as we discuss Dostoevsky's most important literary output, including selections from his early work and (most importantly) two of his most significant mature novels. Careful reading and discussion of Dostoevsky's work will take centre stage, with short lectures and secondary readings offered to contextualize his thought and legacy.

This course will deal with Dostoevsky's writings in English translation. There are no prerequisites and knowledge of Russian is not required.