Dostoevsky and English Modernism 1900-1930
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This book examines how seven major English novelists--D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Arnold Bennett, Joseph Conrad, E. M. Forster, Henry James, and John Galsworthy--responded to the work of the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky in the early years of the twentieth century. Dostoevsky's work provoked heated and exaggerated responses, both positive and negative, from these English writers. A study of their literary and critical reactions to Dostoevsky illuminates their aesthetic and cultural values, and the nature of the modern English novel.
reflection of Russia’s intellectual culture. A philosophic visionary, he pursues an ideal of nobility that embraces all of humanity, nurturing a dream of a golden age. Yet his own life is marked by disorder and secret carnality. The father of two illegitimate children, as well as two legitimate ones, Versilov lives with Arkady’s mother, whose legal husband, the holy pilgrim Makar, still visits her. Though Versilov tenderly loves his virtual wife, the angelic Sofya Andreyevna, he is tormented by
or perceptiveness. Their readers during the s and s can usually be identified as either believers or unbelievers, converts or infidels. If Dostoevsky enthusiasts evoked comparisons to a cult, the same fervor extended to Lawrence’s admirers. For example, Ivy Low reported that she ‘‘read Sons and Lovers in one all-night sitting.’’ The next morning she sent postcards to her friends, including one to Viola Maynell: ‘‘Be sure to read Sons and Lovers! This is a book about the Oedipus complex!
businessman, Bennett purchased his own yacht during this time; he also bought a country house in Essex. Joseph Conrad, long acclaimed as a literary master but perennially denied commercial success, finally reached a larger audience at the age of fifty-five with his novel, Chance, first published serially in the New York Herald in . This novel followed the publication of Under Western Eyes, a work that left Conrad in a state of mental collapse, in part because it proved the culmination of
and dismissed his works for their failure to achieve ironic distance, a mark of their moral and literary turpitude. Ideological differences also motivated disdain for the writer believed to embody czarist autocracy and Orthodox servility. In the chaotic shouting of his novels, Introduction Conrad heard the refusal to accept with stoic dignity the intractable dilemmas of modern life. The last three writers included in this study have less to say than the others, once allowances are made for
Flaubert, Maupassant, and Turgenev, though all of them wrote about urban subjects. Later in the preface, Ford again compares his friend to Dostoevsky when he discusses Conrad’s ‘‘two great novels dealing with city life’’ and acknowledges Under Western Eyes as Conrad’s ‘‘finest achievement.’’ ‘‘Here – again I say ‘it seems to me’ – you have Conrad appearing in the role of a Dostoevsky who is also a conscious artist.’’⁶⁷ Considering Ford’s relative lack of interest in Dostoevsky, a novelist whom he