Exhausting Ennui: Bellow, Dostoevsky, and the Literature of Boredom by ProQuest

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The following essay reexamines Saul Bellow's much discussed relationship to Dostoevsky by focussing on the genealogy of boredom, with its dual origins as source of lyrical expression and/or prison of moral ambivalence. Specifically, though Bellow criticism past and present has argued by turns, and sometimes simultaneously, that Bellow is a disciple of Dostoevsky the moralist or of his "polyphonic" art, it finds upon closer inspection that what Bellow truly strives to envisage in/through the glass of Dostoevsky's "Eastern" art is a harmonious resolution to the paradox inherent in this alliance of apparently incompatible ideals-the artist s creed of disinterestedness and the moralist-polemicist's commitment to self-realization through conviction and action. However, where Bellow and his critics see concord, Dostoevsky and his critics see discord. And with reason, since Bellow's desire to reconcile the artist and the moralist in Dostoevsky (and in himself) leads him to ignore boredom's moral-intellectual antecedents in the literature of Western Enlightenment and consequently assert his bias as a "spokesman for our culture . . . a defender of the Western cultural tradition" (Clayton 1979, 3). Conversely, but by the same token, the "constant conflict . . . between the propagandist and creative artist" (Magarshak 1975, 311) enacted in Dostoevsky's oeuvre points to his polemic not only with the West but, of course, with himself. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

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