"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, March 11, 2016

Dostoevsky's Global Ethic

Is there any other Russian novelist (apart from Tolstoy perhaps) who continues to attract such scholarly attention as Dostoevsky? I've noted other studies of him over the years, and in May of this year we will have this fascinating-sounding book: Leonard Friesen, Transcendent Love: Dostoevsky and the Search for a Global Ethic (University of Notre Dame Press, 2016), 240pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
In Transcendent Love: Dostoevsky and the Search for a Global Ethic, Leonard G. Friesen ranges widely across Dostoevsky's stories, novels, journalism, notebooks, and correspondence to demonstrate how Dostoevsky engaged with ethical issues in his times and how those same issues continue to be relevant to today's ethical debates. Friesen contends that the Russian ethical voice, in particular Dostoevsky's voice, deserves careful consideration in an increasingly global discussion of moral philosophy and the ethical life.
Friesen challenges the view that contemporary liberalism provides a religiously neutral foundation for a global ethic. He argues instead that Dostoevsky has much to offer when it comes to the search for a global ethic, an ethic that for Dostoevsky was necessarily grounded in a Christian concept of an active, extravagant, and transcendent love. Friesen also investigates Dostoevsky's response to those who claimed that contemporary European trends, most evident in the rising secularization of nineteenth-century society, provided a more viable foundation for a global ethic than one grounded in the One, whom Doestoevsky called simply "the Russian Christ." Throughout, Friesen captures a sense of the depth and sheer loveliness of Dostoevsky's canon. Dostoevsky was, after all, someone who believed that the ethical life was sublimely beautiful, even as it recklessly embraced suffering and unreasonably forgave others. The book will appeal to both students and scholars of Russian literature and history, comparative ethics, global ethics, and cultural studies, and togeneral readers with an interest in Dostoevsky.
"Others have written about Dostoevsky's ethics, but I am not aware of any single-authored, sustained attempt to make the case for Dostoevsky's 'transcendent love' as part of a larger discussion of a global ethic. Moreover, Leonard Friesen presents his case in an engaging and highly accessible form. He believes passionately that Dostoevsky is deeply relevant to the discussion; his commitment rings through the pages and draws the reader in. In this way, his essay makes an original contribution to Dostoevsky studies that will appeal to scholars in a variety of disciplines and to educated lay readers with ethical concerns about the path of modernity, as well as to the many fans of Dostoevsky's work." —Russell Hillier, Providence College

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