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Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Underground”

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  • jeannedarc714
    Fyodor Dostoevsky s Notes From Underground is probably one of the most important contributions to existentialist thought/discourse ever written. It is a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 21, 2004
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      Fyodor Dostoevsky's "Notes From Underground" is probably one of the
      most important contributions to existentialist thought/discourse
      ever written. It is a contemplation on the contradictions and inner
      conflicts of modern man--one who is faced with the need for
      community, while at the same time despises himself for this need,
      which he views as a domination detrimental to his subjecthood. I
      encourage everybody to read this work.

      Also, is anyone familiar with Gary Walkow's brilliant adaptation
      of "Notes"? It's being released on DVD by Olive Films later this
      year. You can check out their website here:

      The film is really quite amazing. It's a very faithful adaptation,
      and the director has managed to capture a lot of the more subtle
      details from Notes, so that Dostoevsky's imagination is preserved in
      the characters. The film is set in mid-1990s urban America—this
      makes one consider how "those circumstances under which our society
      was in general formed" seem strikingly similar (if not even more
      binding and coercive) to Dostoevsky's day. Both Dostoevsky's
      Underground Man and the version in Walkow's film attempt to confess
      their condition (in the film, Underground Man keeps a video diary)
      to an "audience", but this confession can be read as being somehow
      dishonest—Underground Man is miserable; he feels guilty for
      spitefully attacking those around him and shame for his perceived
      inability to embrace others. Yet his heightened self-consciousness—
      his panoptical awareness of the social constructs that act to
      eliminate human beings' subjecthood—paralyzes him. He cannot
      interact without shame. To ease this pain, he aggressively lashes
      out at his fellow human beings; out of spiteful anger at everyone's
      inability to see these constructs and their function, he lets these
      coercive barriers get the best of him by using the very same
      constructs to prop up his wounded pride.

      Walkow's film is brilliant—it successfully allows the audience to
      see the relevance of Dostoevsky's work in contemporary society. The
      pervasive crisis of (post)modernity is examined inside and out.

      The DVD edition looks like it will be fantastic—it comes with an
      audio commentary and a slide-show lecture presentation by Joseph
      Frank (author of the detailed 5 volume biography on Dostoevsky).

      Also, check out Olive Films' website, because it has a thorough
      chapter-by-chapter analysis of the film by Deborah Martinsen,
      professor of Slavic literature at Columbia. These essays compare
      Dostoevsky's text with Walkow's rendering of it, so it's very useful
      for studying/evaluating both.
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