Robin Miller on Crime & Punishment: The Hum and Buzz of Implication

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In this talk, delivered on March 7th as part of Winter Weekend 2014, Robin Feur Miller discusses Dostoevsky’s Crime & Punishment. She analyzes different readings of the novel and studies it through the lens of Dostoevsky’s own notebooks and letters. Miller is a professor of the humanities at Brandeis University. She teaches and studies the fiction of writers in the nineteenth century, with a focus on Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Dickens.

Miller describes Crime & Punishment as the most tautly structured of Dostoevsky’s novels. Is the novel a tragedy in five acts? Is the epilogue bogus? Does Raskolnikov repent, or only feel shame? Miller argues that our capacities of sympathy and fantasy are taxed when we read the novel. She questions whether this readerly knowledge can render us more capable of making rational, ethical judgments in the real world. Miller discusses the spread of ideas like viruses, “equally contagious and both airborne.”