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Turned Inside-Out: Reading the Russian Novel in Prison After Levinas - Presented by Professor Steven Shankman​

When: Monday, October 19, 2015
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM  

Where: Harris Hall, Room 108, 1881 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public

Contact: Martha Witwer   847.491.5636

Group: Slavic Languages and Literatures

Religious Studies Department

Category: Fine Arts


Presented by Professor Steven Shankman, UNESCO Chair in Transcultural Studies, Interreligious Dialogue, and Peace at the University of Oregon.  At the University of Oregon, Professor Shankman holds joint appointments in the Departments of English and Classics; is a participating faculty member in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies; and is a participating faculty member, as well, in the Departments of Comparative Literature and Philosophy.

The "ethical turn" in contemporary literary criticism was inspired, in large part, by Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995), who was profoundly influenced by the Russian novel, and particularly by Dostoevsky. Steven Shankman looks at how the experience of incarceration turned both Dostoevsky and Emmanuel Levinas “inside-out” at similar junctures in their lives and careers.

Shankman examines what Levinas means by "thinking God" on the basis of ethical responsibility, outside of the question of God's existence or non-existence (i.e. outside of ontology). And he explores how Dostoevsky in his major novels tries to "think God" through the ethical relation.

Shankman also shares how, as a result of reading Dostoevsky and Levinas in the prison environment with an even mix of college students and inmates through the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, students often bear witness to the humbling and inspiring experience of having been turned inside-out by the faces of their fellow classmates.

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