University of Iowa Main Library features exhibit on Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoyevsky may not be a household name, but over the next four months he will be familiar to anyone who walks through the doors of the Main Gallery of the University of Iowa Library.

“From Revolutionary Outcast to Man of God: Dostoyevsky at 200” is the Library’s main gallery exhibit for the fall, exploring the entire literary career of the 19th-century Russian writer. Dostoyevsky is best known for his novels “Crime and Punishment” and “The Karamazov Brothers”.

The exhibition is curated by Anna Barker, Assistant Assistant Professor of Russian Literature at UI, and will run until December 17. Thursday, an opening reception for the exhibition will take place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“Dostoyevsky at 200” refers to the author’s birthday.

He was born in Moscow in 1821, the precise date “complicated”, according to Barker, who explained that Russia used the Julian calendar in the 19th century before switching to the Gregorian calendar which is widely used today.

The exhibition celebrates his birthday on November 11 in accordance with the Gregorian calendar.

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The exhibit will welcome Father Ignatius Valentine from St. Raphael Orthodox Church in Iowa City in October as part of the “Dostoyevsky at 200” program. Valentine will explore spiritual themes in “The Karamazov Brothers” and discuss Dostoyevsky’s own journey with faith.

An 1879 photo of Fyodor Dostoyevsky is seen in an exhibition titled "From revolutionary pariah to man of God: Dostoyevsky at 200," Monday August 23, 2021 at the University of Iowa Main Library in Iowa City, Iowa.

“The Brothers Karamazov” has a chapter entitled “The Grand Inquisitor”.

The parable is told by one of the characters in the novel, creating the character of the Grand Inquisitor who confronts Christ and “accuses him of encumbering humanity with free will,” according to a panel in the exhibit.

Barker said it is considered the most “theologically, philosophically important” chapter of all of Dostoevsky’s writings.

“The Grand Inquisitor” will also come to life as part of the Riverside Theater 2021-22 season.

“Dostoevsky at 200” will be divided into four sections based on the life and work of Dostoevsky:

  • “Rebelle”, his years of youth and university and his first publications;
  • “Condemned”, his stay in a labor camp in Siberia;
  • “Gambler”, who follows his life after his stay in Siberia;
  • “Prophet”, which features Dostoyevsky’s five acclaimed novels, including “The Karamazov Brothers”.

Viewers entering the exhibition should start from the right, walking through the room as they journey through Dostoyevsky’s life. Each novel highlighted in the exhibition includes a physical copy of the book.

An exhibition on Fyodor Dostoyevsky entitled "From revolutionary pariah to man of God: Dostoyevsky at 200" is seen, Monday, August 23, 2021, at the University of Iowa Main Library in Iowa City, Iowa.

All of the books on display at the exhibit, Barker said, are from UI Special Collections, UI Book Stacks, or his own. She called it a “big celebration” of the UI collection.

“We’ve been very, very lucky to have so many amazing, amazing books as we can display,” Barker said. “But at the same time, I felt that these books are so rare and so special that they are only available in special collections. And so I really encourage readers after the exhibition is over to browse these books in special collections and visit these books and make a pilgrimage to this incredible source.

Alongside the exhibition, Iowa City, a UNESCO City of Literature, is hosting a 100-day “The Brothers Karamazov” community reading program starting September 1, when participants read a handful of pages from the novel daily. Barker led a 100-day guided reading of “War and Peace” earlier this year and is also leading this one.

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In an email to the Press-Citizen, Sara Pinkham, exhibition and engagement coordinator for the library’s main gallery, wrote that “Dostoyevsky at 200” will also be turned into a virtual exhibition at some point. ulterior.

Dostoyevsky, an author for all

Inside the exhibit is a quote on a panel from the New Testament. The quote is used as an epigraph to “Brothers Karamazov” and states:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. “

Barker said that Dostoyevsky’s writing is the seed placed in the ground.

“But if we internalize it, if we accept it, then it resurrected us, and in many ways when we read books we give them an afterlife,” Barker said. “It is the resurrection of a silent text that remains unused and unclaimed.”

It is, Barker said, the work she has been engaged in since all her literary celebrations, to create books that seem “obscure, too long, too old or seemingly boring” for the present and to make them “alive, relevant. and completely accessible. . “

Doing this with Dostoevsky is possible because he can connect with people today, she said.

Barker explained that she had received emails or texts from students who read one of Dostoevsky’s works, saying they laughed while reading his novels – a sign of the writer’s hilarity, a she declared.

Her stay in a forced labor camp in Siberia taught her what it means to be human and to be a survivor, she said.

Students, Barker said, love Dostoyevsky because he talks to them without speaking down to them, and his experiences have taught him to accept others and not take life for granted.

Dostoevsky adopted a mentality that he cannot judge others because he is also imperfect and human, Barker said, and it is this worldview that we all do our best despite our flaws and aware of our failures, which continues to resonate.

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“Dostoyevsky accepts us as we are; he is not there to reform us, ”said Barker. “He’s just here to tell us, ‘You too are human, and I love you. “”

The main gallery of the library is open daily. Visit the website to see times and location. Entrance to the exhibition is free.

Paris Barraza covers entertainment, lifestyle, and the arts at the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Contact her at [email protected] or (319) 519-9731. Follow her on Twitter @ParisBarraza.


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