Author: Tatyana V. Kovalevskaya
Information about the author:

Doctor of Philosophical Sciences, Docent, Full Professor, Foreign Languages Department of the School of International Relations and Regional Studies, Institute for History and Archives, Russian State University for the Humanities (Moscow).

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For citation:

Kovalevskaya T.V. Fyodor Dostoevsky and America: Harriet Beecher Stowe's Oldtown Folks and Issues of Calvinist Theology. Dostoevsky and World Culture. Philological journal, 2020, No 2(10), pp.61-94.

Issue: 2020 № 2(10)
Pages: 61-94
DOI: 10.22455/2619-0311-2020-2-61-94
UDK: 821.161.1
BBK: 83.3(2)
Keywords: Protestantism, Puritanism, Calvinism, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Oldtown Folks, Alexander Pushkin, “John Tanner,” the elect, predestination, The Devils.
Abstract: The article considers the image of America in Dostoevsky’s artistic philosophy. It gives a brief overview of existing research, including literary, political, and mythological aspects of the American topos in Dostoevsky. The article focuses on the philosophical and religious significance of America viewed as the product of two seemingly contradictory impulses. One is the Enlightenment concept of an ideal state (Alexander Pushkin in his article “John Tanner” writes about the failure of this utopian perception of America) and the second is Protestantism in its radical Puritan form (Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Oldtown Folks treats the issues of Puritans’ religious life; its Russian translation was published in the Zarya journal when Dostoevsky worked on The Devils). As the product of essentially anti-Christian, deistic philosophy of the Enlightenment (“Of the Religion of Deism Compared with the Christian Religion” by Thomas Paine, an English corset-maker and one of the ideological fathers of the American revolution, is particularly telling in this regard), America could already appear to Dostoevsky as a man-made dystopia. Puritans viewed themselves as the ancient Israel, the elect, God’s chosen people. Consequently, in full logical accord with the ideas of Rousseau in The Social Contract that theocracy means representing the national character of a people in the image of a god, America creates a religion of itself as a god. America must be believed in. In this capacity, America embodies Shatov’s idea of a god being the synthetic personality of the people that excludes all other gods irreconcilably. America thus becomes Russia’s religious and political opposite as America exemplifies what happens when God is reduced an attribute of nationality as opposed to keeping the true image of God in people’s soul as Dostoevsky viewed the mission of a God-bearing people.


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