Zosima, Mikhail and Prosaic Confessional Dialogue in Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov

By Contino, Paul J. | Studies in the Novel, Spring 1995 | Go to article overview

Zosima, Mikhail and Prosaic Confessional Dialogue in Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov


Contino, Paul J., Studies in the Novel


In the first chapter of The Brothers Karamazov, the narrator digresses to tell a story:

I knew a young lady of the "romantic" generation before the last who after some years of an enigmatic passion for a gentleman, whom she might easily have married at any moment, invented insuperable obstacles to their union, and ended by throwing herself one stormy night into a rather deep and rapid river from a high bank, almost a precipice, and so perished, entirely to satisfy her own caprice, and to be like Shakespeare's Ophelia. Indeed, if this precipice, a chosen and favorite spot of hers, had been less picturesque, if there had been a prosaic flat bank in its place, most likely the suicide would never have taken place. This is a fact, and probably there have been not a few similar instances in the last two or three generations of our Russian life.(1)

The narrator suggests strongly that a prosaic setting would have successfully counteracted the solitary, self-dramatizing, and romantic impulse - and the woman would have chosen to live.

The beneficial influence of the prosaic can be located as running throughout The Brothers Karamazov - especially in the many scenes of confessional dialogue throughout the novel, the vital importance of which Mikhail Bakhtin emphasizes: Dostoevsky "asserts the impossibility of solitude, the illusory nature of solitude . . . confession is the object of his artistic vision and depiction. He depicts confession . . . in order to show the interdependence of consciousnesses that is revealed during confession. I cannot manage without another, I cannot become myself without another."(2) In each of his major novels, Dostoevsky's confessors - Sonia Marmeladov in Crime and Punishment, Prince Myshkin in The Idiot, Father Tikhon in The Possessed, Alyosha Karamazov and Father Zosima - assist others when they are most violently fractured and self-destructive. The splintered selves of these confessants is often due to their overweening concern about the way they are being perceived by others The confessor's authority lies in his or her capacity to assist the other toward recovering what Bakhtin calls "the deepest I,"(3) or what might be understood as "the prosaic self." The prosaic self proves capable of free, integral speech and action before others, and the "labor and fortitude" of what Zosima calls "active love" (p. 49). The encounter between Zosima and Mikhail, his "mysterious visitor," offers an exemplary instance of prosaic confessional dialogue.

Bakhtin and the Prosaic Self

In Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics, Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson coin the term "prosaics to cover a concept that permeates Bakhtin's work":

Prosaics encompasses two related, but distinct, concepts. First, as opposed to "poetics," prosaics designates a theory of literature that privileges prose in general and the novel in particular over the poetic genres. Prosaics in the second sense is far broader than theory of literature; it is a form of thinking that presumes the importance of the everyday, the ordinary, the "prosaic."(4)

In its second sense, prosaics is a form of realism. It attends to and accepts the limits and graces embodied in the here and now, the temporal, and suspects the romantic, utopian, and apocalyptic. The concept of the prosaic self extends this understanding of prosaic by integrating what seem to be conflicting strands in Bakhtin's work: his affirmation of both the open and closed in human experience.

On the one hand, and as is commonly accepted, Bakhtin celebrates openness and unfinalizability. He extols Dostoevsky's "new artistic position" in relation to his characters, "a fully realized and thoroughly consistent dialogic position, one that affirms the independence, internal freedom, unfinalizability, and indeterminacy of the hero."(5) On the other hand, in his earlier ethical writings, Toward a Philosophy of the Act and "Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity," Bakhtin stresses the necessity of "finalizing" one's deeds before the eyes of others. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Zosima, Mikhail and Prosaic Confessional Dialogue in Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.