A Shimer student digs into a great book
Murder, poverty, psychosis, suspense, and literature’s most famous axe murderer all lurk between the pages of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. A mid-century Russian classic, this novel has earned its place on the shelves of literature lovers worldwide. It’s even found a home in Shimer’s own curriculum of great books.
Our great books curriculum invites students to engage with Dostoyevsky’s work on a personal level. In small classes and seminars, they bring their ideas to the table and form conclusions about the novel through lively academic discussion. If you’d like a seat at this table, all you need is a passion for great books and a willingness to pursue your own first-rate liberal arts education.
Fuel your passion and flex your critical thinking muscles by learning how Crime and Punishment influences the following modern works.
2 + 2 = 5: Questioning Reality through Dostoyevsky & Great Books Studies
“It would be nice to think sometimes that twice two makes five,” thinks Crime and Punishment’s main character (Rodion Raskolnikov) when told that facts are facts and a man must always act rationally. This particular theme pops up in several works of literature that are classics in their own right.
George Orwell’s 1984 is thought to have been inspired by this element of Crime and Punishment. Upon 1984’s release, scholars were quick to draw clear connections between Raskolnikov’s paradoxical thinking and the dystopian policies of Orwell’s Oceania. Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We is similarly said to be inspired by Dostoyevsky due to its exploration of limitations to mathematical realities.
In a college with curricula based on seminal texts instead of summative textbooks (sometimes called a great books college) students engage directly with these kinds of fundamental and influential novels.
Shelves at Shimer host some of classic and contemporary literature’s greatest works
Great Books Studies and Cinema: Crime and Punishment’s Antihero Onscreen
Alfred Hitchcock once told French director Francois Truffaut that he would never make a film adaptation of Crime and Punishment, because he felt he could “make a great film out of a good book, and even—or especially—a mediocre book, but never a great book, because the film would always suffer by comparison.”
Other directors have risen to the challenge, however, including Woody Allen and Andrew O’Keefe. Allen’s Match Point (2005) is a take on the Crime and Punishment plot with a slightly happier ending. O’Keefe’s Crime and Punishment is a thriller with the ominous tagline “When reason fails, the devil helps.”
Great books studies students looking for a lighter retelling of this classic story can instead watch Crime and Punishment in Suburbia (2000), a Sundance-nominated film with all the drama of the original novel performed in ‘new-millennium’ era fashion choices that make it even more entertaining in present-day.
Shimer students work together to grapple with great books like Crime and Punishment
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