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Article

Достоевский и Писарев: две прекрасные души в литературном поле

MATICA SRPSKA. 2021. Т. 99. С. 103-119.

This paper develops a new perspective on the ideological antagonism between Dostoevsky and the radical critic Dmitri Pisarev, as representative of a more fundamental rift within the nineteenth-century intelligentsia—the so-called “conscience of Russian society.”  Drawing on Hegel’s thematics of conscience and the beautiful soul from the Phenomenology of Spirit (which played a vital role in the emergence of the intelligentsia), the analysis links Dostoevsky’s polemic with Pisarev to an unavoidable dissonance within the inner logic of conscience, which Hegel dramatizes as a clash between two members of the conscientious community: a “beautiful soul” that acts and another “beautiful soul” that never acts, but only judges.  Throughout their polemic Dostoevsky and Pisarev resemble these two “beautiful souls,” who do not realize that they represent two essential sides of conscience.  At the same time, given that this conflict pitted two rival journals operating within an open literary market, the analysis also draws on Bourdieu’s sociological conception of the “literary field” and his notion of “symbolic capital.”  From this perspective, Dostoevsky and Pisarev exemplify two diametrically opposed approaches to accumulating symbolic capital.  Although the conflict between these two beautiful souls initially leads to an impasse among the intelligentsia, it will eventually transform the nature of conscientious action.