While Dostoevsky’s relation to religion is well-trod ground, there exists no comprehensive study of Dostoevsky and Catholicism. Elizabeth Blake’s ambitious and learned Dostoevsky and the Catholic Underground fills this glaring omission in the scholarship. Previous commentators have traced a wide-ranging hostility in Dostoevsky’s understanding of Catholicism to his Slavophilism. Blake depicts a far more nuanced picture. Her close reading demonstrates that he is repelled and fascinated by Catholicism in all its medieval, Reformation, and modern manifestations. Dostoevsky saw in Catholicism not just an inspirational source for the Grand Inquisitor but a political force, an ideological wellspring, a unique mode of intellectual inquiry, and a source of cultural production. Blake’s insightful textual analysis is accompanied by an equally penetrating analysis of nineteenth-century European revolutionary history, from Paris to Siberia, that undoubtedly influenced the evolution of Dostoevsky’s thought.
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ELIZABETH A. BLAKE is an assistant professor of Russian in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at Saint Louis University. Her articles on Fedor Dostoevsky, Lev Tolstoy, Boleslaw Prus, Ayn Rand, and Siberian exiles have appeared in Dostoevsky Studies, Slavic and East European Journal, Polish Review, Germano-Slavica, and edited collections.
"Elizabeth Blake's study, more than any I know, helps its reader to understand the roots of his prejudice, especially in the period of his Siberian imprisonment and exile [....] Blake has written a carefully researched study that makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of Dostoevskii and will enrich future scholarship on his work." (Paul Contino, Pepperdine University; Slavic Review Fall 2015)
"Acknowledging her debt to Joseph Frank, Elizabeth Blake furthers the tradition of literary-historical Dostoevsky analysis, a fusion product that may not satisfy the purists of either field, yet still represents a remarkable achievement [....] The book persuasively examines how Dostoevsky read and wrote about the Catholic underground: the sources in historical events and current affairs, as well as Russian and European literary precedents informing Dostoevsky's apprehension of a covert, subversive conspiracy..." (Stephen M. Woodburn, Southwestern College; Russian Review January 2015)
“Any reader of Joseph Frank’s magisterial biography of Fedor Dostoevskii (1976–2002), especially its final volume, is well aware of the Russian author’s virulent hatred of Catholicism. But Elizabeth Blake’s study, more than any I know, helps its reader to understand the roots of his prejudice, especially in the period of his Siberian imprisonment and exile. .... Blake has written a carefully researched study that makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of Dostoevskii and will enrich future scholarship on his work.”
“Blake’s detailed monograph represents a welcome contribution to Dostoevsky studies. Readers will find the book a helpful resource in understanding Dostoevsky’s critical assessment of what he viewed as the ideology and threat of Catholicism.”
—Slavic and East European Journal
"Blake has done Dosteovsky scholarship a great service in this book... this fine, meticulously researched book has definitely reset the terms of any discussion of Dostoevsky's relationship with the Roman religion. She has contributed not only nuance but a sense of the rich history that underlies this relationship." —Dosteovsky Studies
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