Reading Disciples

Reading Disciples Recap

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Week 1: The first 53 pages introduced Fyodor and his three very different sons, plus the saintly Elder Zosima (my personal favorite). Fyodor, Ivan, Alysosha plus a few extra characters met with Zosima in his humble abode hopefully to end a family feud with Dmitri. The reading ended with Zosima meeting with the "Women of Faith" and easing their troubles as only Zosima can do.

Here are some of the quotes that were brought up in class:

p.9 In most cases, people even wicked people are far more naive and simple-hearted than one generally assumes. And so are we.

p.18 It alone struck him...with an ideal way out for his soul struggling from the darkness of worldly wickedness towards the light of love.

p. 24 Now me, I'm ready to believe in hell, but there shouldn't be any ceiling

p 26 faith is not born of miracles, but miracles from faith

Week 2: This week our opening question was brought by Charles Kennedy. He asked us if  "the church is indeed a kingdom and appointed to reign, and in the end must undoubtedly be revealed as a kingdom over all the earth" (pg. 62 Pevear translation) or not? This section is from the chapter So Be It! So Be It! Ivan Fyodorovich and the Elder Zosima discussed ecclesiastical courts and the role of The Church inside or outside or around The State. Both men ultimately argue that a world governed by the Christian ideals of love and grace would indeed be grand. Ivan argues that without the belief of an afterlife there is no virtue. Zosima reminds Ivan (and all of us) that it is an individual's acknowledgement of his own conscience that will protect society.
The beauty of discussion covered a lot of ground from the death penalty, discipline and sin to teaching first graders integrity - and "is divine predestination already standing on the eve of its appearance, at the door"? (p.66 Pevear translation). 
I knew ecclesiastical courts would dominate today. We didn't even get to Dmitri's entrance! Finally he shows up to the meeting and craziness ensues with him and Fyodor trading jabs. Zosima bows down to Dmitri (what!?), retreats to his sick bed, and orders Alyosha back out into the world! Lizaveta and her son Smerdykov are also introduced, and we totally skipped over one of my favorite ridiculous aristocrat Katerina Khokhlakov (Liza's mother).

Week 3: Thank you to Chris Simpson for recapping the discussion:
Our reading for this past class was the rest of Part I: Book Three, which a couple members of the class referred to as "the soap opera part." But as we've found every week we've gone through this book, each section is dense with conversations and scenes that provoke discussion and this week was no different. Much of our discussion focused on the idea of renouncing your Christian faith in order to save your life. This was inspired by Smerdyakov's belief that renouncing your faith to avoid death was logical because God would forgive you later. Some expressed that it could be more rational to renounce your faith because there is no sin that would not be forgiven and so you could continue to live a Christian life of active love like Zosima recommended, others didn't see renunciation as an option, and others believed it wasn't possible to really know how someone would act given the choice between martyrdom and renouncing their faith. We also discussed Dmitri's view of himself as an insect and corrupt, unable to avoid his fate as Karamazov, and how this belief made him a tragic character.