Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Finished With Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov

Dostoevsky's Study where Brothers Karamazov was written
These members of the Veritas Modern World Humanities Class have now finished
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky:

1.  Liz Woll (Weekend)

2.  Wesley Daniel  (Monday night)

3.  Mr. House  (at 11:00 p.m. Tuesday night)

4.  Nicholas House (Thursday afternoon)

5.  George Hornok (Memorial Day)

6.  Eric Auel (June 30)

7.  Leah Duncan (the morning of June 30)

8.  Asher Wagnon (June 30)

And a most amazing student of Russian heritage is still plodding along, one paragraph at a time.

There is much gold to be mined in some of Dostoevsky's other great works:

What if Christ had merely been a man?

Good cannot result from evil actions

Read by the teacher in college many years ago.

Started, but never finished.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Last Week of School

Monday, May 23--Thursday, May 26

So Many Books, So Little Time

Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student.
     - George Iles

Monday:  Racing toward the finish line of The Brothers Dostoevsky.

If I am not in class, begin watching "Nicholas and Alexandra."

Tuesday:  A frightening test over The Brothers Karamazov.

Wednesday:  Semester Test, Part 1:

Bring a two page writing to class on this topic:  The Books That Made the Most Impact on My Thinking This Year.

Be prepared to write out a list of all the books we have read or read portions from.

Thursday: Semester Test, Part 2:  Questions and Answers Over Everything.

Friday:  Graduation

***Bonus Question for the Week:  Who Was Abraham Kuyper?***

You and Your Book and the Lake

Friday, May 20, 2011

What We Are Missing--Two Great Books and Two Great Historians

Yes, I am tired. Yes, I am ready for the summer break. However, I hate to see my Modern World Humanities class come to an end.  Just this morning I was thinking of two great books written about early 20th century events that my students need to read and that I need to read again.  Both were written when I was a very young child in the early 1960s.  I did not disover them until years later.  Both authors are great narrative historians.  Both books are written with the page-turning draw of an action novel.  Both are panaramic coverages of great events in history.  Both are relevant to understand the world we live in.

Alas, we do not even have the time to watch the fine historical documentary of The Guns of August, nor the well done movie account of Nicholas and Alexandra.

Barbara Tuchman was one of the best historical writers of recent times.  The Guns of August won her a Pulitizer Prize and many readers.  The book has remained in print from 1962 to the present.  It should be on any history teacher's short list of vital books about the 20th century and World War I. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Descent into Modernity: The 20th Century

Assignments for the Week of May 16-20

World War I--1914-1918

Monday:  Mr. House will duly report to court for jury duty today.  Your trial is a different one:  Read extensively from The Brothers Karamazov.  Prepare a report that includes your starting and stopping pages on today's reading.  Be prepared to write a short (one or more pages) account tomorrow of the reading you do today.

The official assignment:  Book Seven: Alyosha

Tuesday:  The Twentieth Century Foretold and Told in Poetry:  "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold

An Outline of the 20th Century

Discussion of The Brothers Karamazov

Reading Assignment:  Book Eight: Mitya 

Wednesday:  The Twentieth Century Foretold and Told in Poetry:   "The Darkling Thrush" by Thomas Hardy

Events Leading Up to World War I

Brothers Karamazov Discussion Points

Reading Assignment:  Book Nine: The Preliminary Investigation

Thursday:  The Twentieth Century Foretold and Told in Poetry:  "The Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats

World War I--In Brief

Brothers Karamazov Discussion

Reading Assignment:  Continue Book Nine

Friday:  The Twentieth Century Foretold and Told in Poetry:  "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen

The Russian Revolution

Simon Schama Video--"The Two Winstons"

Quotes from Paul Johnson:

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Western elites were confident that men and progress were governed by reason. A prime discovery of modern times is that reason plays little part in our affairs.
- from Modern Times: The World From the Twenties to the Nineties

My grandfather used to say, "Learn to like art, music and literature deeply and passionately. They will be your friends when things are bad". It is true: at this time of year, when days are short and dark, and one hardly dares to open the newspapers, I turn, not vainly either, to the great creators of the past for distraction, solace and help.
        - from a Spectator column in January 2005

Just a Few of Paul Johnson's Great Books

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Notes and Thoughts on The Brothers Karamazov

Dostoevsky and The Brothers Karamazov, Part 1

Russian Author Fyodor Dostoevsky
It's May, the end of school is nearing all too fast, and I have assigned my students a journey into the literary and theological labyrinth of Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.  This is a book for high schoolers.  It is not for them in the sense of being easy, being a "page turner," or identifying with high schoolish fads and foibles.  It is a high schooler's book because it is about the battle in the human heart.  As the character Dmitri says, "Here is the devil struggling with God, and the battlefield is the human heart."  The devil and all his recruiting agents are all camped outside the heart and mind of us, constantly seeking to lure us into hellish wiles.  Students may not understand all of Dostoevsky, may not be able to follow all the dialog and discussions, may not grasp every issue, may not perceive the theological subtleties of the book, but they understand something of the battle for the human heart.  That is why this book is so important for them.
Continue reading.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Brothers Karamazov and the Race Against Time

Assignments for May 9 to May 13

Finish Simon Schama's "Empire of Good Intentions"
Follow-up readings and discussions of Empires, British and Otherwise

Dostoevsky Discussion and Helps
Reading from Dostoevsky--Part II, Book Four: Strains

Darwin Reports
Wrap up of Notes and Discussion on Marx's Communist Manifesto

Dostoevsky Discussion and Helps
Reading from Dostoevsky--Part III, Book Five: Pros and Cons

Overview of the 19th Century:  Timelines, Key Figures, Key Events

Reading from Dostoevsky--Part IV, Book Six:  The Russian Monk
(This reading should carry you through the week.)

Overview of the 20th Century

Dostoevksy and the 20th Century

From that fortress of knowledge--Wikipedia:

Dostoyevsky and the other giant of late 19th century Russian literature, Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, never met in person, even though each praised, criticized, and influenced the other (Dostoyevsky remarked of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina that it was a "flawless work of art"; Henri Troyat reports that Tolstoy once remarked of Crime and Punishment that, "Once you read the first few chapters you know pretty much how the novel will end up"). There was a meeting arranged, but there was a confusion about where the meeting place was to take place and they never rescheduled. Tolstoy reportedly burst into tears when he learned of Dostoyevsky's death. A copy of The Brothers Karamazov was found on the nightstand next to Tolstoy's deathbed at the Astapovo railway station.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Marx and Darwin versus Dostoevsky...and God

Assignments for the Week of May 2--6
"So great is the worth of Dostoevsky that to have produced him is by itself sufficient justification for the existence of the Russian people in the world: and he will bear witness for
his country-men at the last judgement of the nations."
- Nikolay Berdyaev (1923)


Fyodor Dostoevsky
 Monday:  Discussion of "The Death of Ivan Ilych."

Reading Assignment:  The Brothers Karamazov, Part 1, Book 1

Tuesday:  Terms and Background to The Communist Manifesto. 

Reading Assignment:  The Brothers Karamazov, Part 1, Book 2, Chapters 1-6

Wednesday:  Detour to the British Empire--Simon Schama

Reading updates and quiz

Reading Assignment:  The Brothers Karamazov, Part 1, Book 2, Chs. 7-8, Book 3, Chs. 1-3
Thursday:  Reports on Darwin's Origin of Species.  Handouts must be prepared before class starts.

Reading Assignment:  The Brothers Karamazov, Part 1, Book 3, Chs.  4-11 (due by the end of the week)
Friday: Track and Field Day. No regular classes.

Reading Assignment:  The Brothers Karamazov, Part 1--to be finished

"I think the devil doesn't exist, but man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness."
- Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Dostoevsky's Grave in St. Petersburg

  • Keep Up With the Reading of Brothers Karamazov
  • Write Down Questions You Have in Your Journals
  • Be Prepared to Make Journal Entries Each Day
  • Be Ready for Quizes over the Reading
  • Don't Come to Class Without Your Book