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Writer as Reader Workshops

The Limits of Forgiveness: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Ian McEwan’s Atonement

November 1, 2013

Great characters evoke in readers powerful, even opposing, responses. Some see Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov and McEwan’s Briony as terrible and unredeemable villains while others find them quite sympathetic, admirable in their growth. In these novels, for characters who have committed terrible crimes, what is the human capacity for change? Can religion be Raskolnikov’s salvation if he fails to fully renounce his “extraordinary man” theory? Can writing an autobiographical novel provide atonement for atheist Briony? Both Dostoevsky and McEwan probe the moral ambiguity of their central figures and ask us to consider to what extent their characters outgrow the theories that governed the transgressions of their youth. The workshop will explore practices that focus on what these works suggest about crimes, punishments, and the limits of forgiveness.

Texts: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky (Vintage, 1993); Atonement by Ian McEwan (Anchor, 2003)

Workshop fee: $200 (includes morning coffee, lunch, and 
workshop materials)