ENL 121: Introduction to Literature 
(Dr. Vavra)
Pennsylvania College 
of Technology

Notes from the Underground

Assignments are to the Norton Critical Edition, 1989.

Assignment One:

    Read the Chronology of Dostoevsky's Life and Work (239-240).
    Part One (pp. 3 - 28)

Assignment Two:
    Part Two, Sections I - V (pp. 29 - 59)

Assignment Three:
    Part Two, Sections VI - X (pp. 59 - 89)

Assignment Four:
    Notes was written, in part, as a reaction against Chernyshevsky's What Is to be Done. Read the selection from that text (pp. 99-117).
      In writing:
      In 25-50 words, explain what Dostoevsky may have been objecting to in Chernyshevsky's novel.

Assignment Five:
    If you are in Group 1, read and take notes on:
         Mikhailovsky, "Dostoevsky's Cruel Talent" (135-139), and
         Shestov's "Dostoevsky and Nietzsche" (142-146).
    If you are in Group 2, read and take notes on:
         Bakhtin, "Discourse in Dostoevsky" (146-156).
    If you are in Group 3, read and take notes on:
        Weisberg, "The Formalistic Model" (190-202)
    Write a short summary (25-50 words) of each article you are responsible for. (Be sure to include the author's main idea and the approach that the author takes.) In class, small groups will be composed of members of each of these three groups, and you will share your reports.

Additional Suggestions for Paper Topics

1. Ralph E. Matlaw (pp. 156-171) and Joseph Frank (pp. 202-237) differ significantly in their critical approaches and in their analysis of this novella.  They have, for example, entirely different evaluations of the narrator. In your paper, consider some of their differences. Is it possible that they both can be right? How does the approach each critic takes affect his conclusions?

2. Gary Saul Morson (in "[Anti-Utopianism in Notes from Underground]") claims that "The psychology of the underground thus refutes the Allegory of the Cave." (190) Compare the image of man and the question of free will in the two works.

3. Collect the animal and insect imagery in the novel and write an essay about its meaning. ("Zverkov" comes from the Russian "zver'," which is the word for wild -- as opposed to domesticated -- animal.)

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