Launchpad: “The Grand Inquisitor” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

By Ed Marks and Dan Cummings, revised by Joe Phelan

About the Author

In the spring of 1849, Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881) faced a Russian firing squad. He had been accused of the political crime of promoting utopian socialism, a popular ideology that threatened the deeply conservative government of Czar Nicholas I. Just as the order was being given to the firing squad to shoot, a messenger appeared with an edict from the Czar commuting the sentence to four years of hard labor in Siberia.

  • Launchpad: “The Grand Inquisitor” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    Created January 14, 2015
  • Launchpad: Dostoevsky’s “Notes from the Underground”

    Created January 14, 2015

    “Shakespeare Uncovered” Returns!

    WNET’s series 2 of Shakespeare Uncovered tells the story behind the stories of six Shakespeare’s greatest plays. Each episode combines history, biography, performance and insights and personal passion of each host as they conduct interviews with actors, scholars and directors from key locations and include video of performances.

  • Lesson 2: Man and Superman

    Created January 12, 2015
    Portrait of the Writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1972, Vasily Perov

    Students examine the theory Man vs. Superman as it is revealed in several scenes within the novel and tackle the larger questions it bring up: Are humans really divided into two distinct categories, the ordinary and the extraordinary? Is this division a figment created by an overactive intellect? What did Dostoevsky think? Then they learn the theory differs radically from Dostoyevsky’s fictional reality—and reader’s—uncover yet another split in the world of the novel, one between intellect and emotion/instinct.

  • Lesson 3: Societal Schisms and Divisions

    Created January 12, 2015
    Portrait of the Writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1972, Vasily Perov

    Students examine the novel’s societal setting, which is also fraught with division. Crime and Punishment is more than just a demonstration of the idea that crime does not pay, it is a vivid depiction of societal injustice. For example, Dostoyevsky’s mid-nineteenth century Russia offered women narrowly circumscribed roles, most often resulting in their dependence on men and/or a life of poverty. The negative effects of several other societal divisions raise additional questions.

  • Lesson 1: Dualistic Portrayal of Characters

    Created January 12, 2015
    Portrait of the Writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1972, Vasily Perov

    Students examine the divided nature of Raskolnikov’s character and personality. Then they uncover the divided natures of other characters—a fact that becomes increasingly evident as the novel progresses to go beyond character analysis to comprehend Dostoyevsky’s underlying themes. What does the novel imply about human nature? Dostoevsky clearly perceived that people are neither simple nor easily classified; they are often torn in opposite directions by forces both inside of and outside of themselves, sometimes with catastrophic results.

    Foxglove flowers

    Emily Dickinson Museum: The Homestead and the Evergreens

    The Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, includes The Homestead, where the poet was born and lived most of her life, and The Evergreens, home of the poet’s brother and his family. It has been the site of several NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for Schoolteachers. The teacher resource page includes a number of curriculum projects by NEH Summer Scholars.

  • Launchpad: Flowers from Emily

    Created December 9, 2014
  • Lesson 3: “The Metamorphoses” and Later Works of Art: A Comparison of Mythic Imagery

    Created November 10, 2014
    Metamorpheses unit image Apollo and Daphne

    Students survey works of art derived from many different eras and schools based on myths from The Metamorphoses. They compare the imagery in the artworks with the passages detailing Ovid’s original tales to understand the artists’ frame of reference and choices.