Dostoevsky’s Underground Man: The Dawn of Modern Consciousness & the Ubiquity of Human Suffering

WHEN: November 5, 2016, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
WHERE: Old Capitol Museum Supreme Court Chamber
FEE: $45

Join us for a special Iowa Writers’ House literary immersion event as Russian literary enthusiast, Anna Barker, leads us through the life and mind of one of the great Russian writers of the 19th century, Dostoevsky! Immerse yourself in both philosophy and food with Russian tea and teacakes, and the famous Underground Gingerbread, all set in the beautiful Old Capitol Museum Supreme Court Chamber.


“Suffering– why, this is the sole cause of consciousness. Though I did declare at the beginning that consciousness, in my opinion, is man’s greatest misfortune. Still I know that man loves it, and will not exchange it for any satisfactions. Consciousness, for example, is infinitely higher than two times two.”


Event Schedule & Information

10:00 a.m: Russian Tea and Russian Tea Cookies
10:30-12:30 p.m: Workshop
12:30-1:30 p.m: Lunch break
1:30 p.m: Gingerbread and coffee
2-4:00 p.m: Workshop

The writing and publication of Notes from Underground was a monumental event in world literature and a turning point in Dostoevsky’s life and career. Freshly released from ten years of penal servitude in Siberia as a political prisoner, Dostoevsky knew a thing or two about suffering and redemption. Many of the questions he ponders in Notes from Underground are unresolvable and belong to what are called the “cursed questions” in nineteenth century Russian literature. Who are we and how do we define ourselves? Do we enjoy being told what to do? Do we follow simple rules and regulations and if we do, how do we reconcile our free will with our adherence to law? Do love our own fat? Do we live in the underground of our own consciousness and how honest are we to ourselves about our deepest and darkest convictions? These and other infuriating musings throb in the feverish mind of our main character, the Underground Man. Notes from Underground is the foundation of Dostoevsky’s philosophy and the cornerstone of the great novels that would follow: Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Demons, and Brothers Karamazov.

Prepare to have your convictions undermined by arguments you cannot refute. Prepare to question everything. Long live the underground! Devil take the underground!

ADVANCE READING: Notes from Underground translated by Richard Peavear.


Page Content Source: Iowa Writers’ House Website