Wednesday, March 26, 2008


My final paper for my Dostoevsky class examined D.'s use of Hamlet--as the quintessential Western text--to portray Russian misreadings of Europe across the character of Ivan Karamazov, an inverted Hamlet with his own response to patricide. So, in short, a ton of fun to write. I seized upon the fact that Ivan's apparition doesn't wear a watch. This paper by Liza Knapp argues that Ivan's devil can't tell time because he doesn't need to, and all of this points to an understanding of theoretical physics--specifically, time as the fourth definition--well before Einstein invented it. I argued that this was a reference to Hamlet's and Horatio's confusion about the time before they see the ghost of Hamlet's father, but that these two interpretations weren't mutually exclusive.

One of the best things about my husband is that he's right-brained enough to read and critique my papers. One of the unfortunate things about my husband is that he's left-brained enough to question the grand theories we humanists tend to invent out of his training as a physicist. Apparently, the idea that Dostoevsky would have thought this up is laughably anachronistic, even if he was familiar with some of the pre-Einsteinian arguments about time, because those arguments weren't about relativity at all, and Knapp's understanding of Ivan's devil relies on relativity.

And thus we see the both the benefits and the pitfalls of interdisciplinarity.

Posted by Shannon Chamberlain @ 6:33 PM