Bookbeat: April 2008

Dostoevsky’s Greatest Characters: A New Approach to Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, and The Brothers KaramazovDostoevsky’s Greatest Characters: A New Approach to Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment, and The Brothers Karamazov

by Bernard J. Paris, UF Emeritus
Department of English
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)
Available through Amazon

Addressed to all readers of Dostoevsky, as well as to teachers, students, and specialists, this lucidly-written study approaches the underground man, Raskolnikov, and Ivan and Alyosha Karamazov as imagined human beings whose feelings, behaviors, and ideas are expressions of their personalities and experience.

While asserting the autonomy of Dostoevsky's characters, Paris shows that there is a tension between them and the author's rhetoric and demonstrates that the characters often escape their illustrative roles. By paying close attention to mimetic detail, this book seeks to recover Dostoevsky's psychological intuitions and fully to appreciate his brilliance in characterization.

"Dostoevsky’s fictional characters – qua characters – have not received the attention they deserve from Bakhtinian Slavists and other critics.  Bernard Paris aims to correct this situation by looking at the underground man, Raskolnikov, and two of the Karamazov brothers through a post-Freudian psychoanalytic lens.  The result is a savvy and very readable study which helps us to appreciate both the profound humanity of individual Dostoevskian characters as well as Dostoevsky’s extraordinary talent for mimetic portrayal."

—Daniel Rancour-Laferriere, Emeritus Professor of Russian, UC Davis

“I know of no other book that comes even close to this one in explaining the intricacies of Dostoevsky's major characters.  Having taught Dostoevsky's novels for over twenty years, I count myself lucky to have come upon this outstanding study. . . . To me, this is the best book in English on Dostoevsky's major characters. . . . Paris writes clearly and without jargon.  Undergraduates and other non-specialists could follow his paragraphs without difficulty.  Psychologists, philosophers, and teachers of literature and creative writing will profit greatly from his work.”

—Joe E. Barnhart, Emeritus Philosophy and Religion Studies, University of North Texas and editor of Dostoevsky’s Polyphonic Talent

Cities and CinemaCities and Cinemas

by Barbara Mennel
Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies
(Routledge, 2008)
Available through Routledge

Films about cities abound. They provide fantasies for those who recognize their city and those for whom the city is a faraway dream or nightmare. How does cinema rework city planners’ hopes and city dwellers’ fears of modern urbanism? Can an analysis of city films answer some of the questions posed in urban studies? What kinds of vision for the future and images of the past do city films offer? What are the changes that city films have undergone?

Cities and Cinema puts urban theory and cinema studies in dialogue. The book’s first section analyzes three important genres of city films that follow in historical sequence, each associated with a particular city, moving from the city film of the Weimar Republic to the film noir associated with Los Angeles and the image of Paris in the cinema of the French New Wave. The second section discusses socio-historical themes of urban studies, beginning with the relationship of film industries and individual cities, continuing with the portrayal of war torn and divided cities, and ending with the cinematic expression of utopia and dystopia in urban science fiction. The last section negotiates the question of identity and place in a global world, moving from the portrayal of ghettos and barrios to the city as a setting for gay and lesbian desire, to end with the representation of the global city in transnational cinematic practices.

The book suggests that modernity links urbanism and cinema. It accounts for the significant changes that city film has undergone through processes of globalization, during which the city has developed from an icon in national cinema to a privileged site for transnational cinematic practices. It is a key text for students and researchers of film studies, urban studies and cultural studies.

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