Notes from Underground

Subverting Chernyshevsky, Anticipating the Avant-Garde: The De-centered Modernist Discourse in Dostoevsky’s 'Notes from Underground' College

There has been a lot of critical investment on the lines of drawing parallels, comparisons and contrasts between Notes From Underground and Chernyshevsky’s sensationally Utopian novel What Is To Be Done?, but the primary importance of Dostoevsky’s novel can also be traced from the perspective of how its protagonist, the Underground Man, has become a point of convergence — an emblem, if we may say so from the vantage point of the twenty-first century, for a number of traits characterizing the so-called Modernist movement. Dostoevsky, however, despite his individual brilliance, was evidently a product of his time. Virginia Woolf opined in her essay ‘Modern Fiction’ that the “most elementary remarks upon modern English fiction can hardly avoid some mention of the Russian influence” (Woolf 57). There are many reasons why the “Russian influence” in general, and Dostoevsky’s influence in particular, was readily felt by many Modernists.

If the disintegration of the personality and society, that marks the boundary of the modern age, was triggered in much of Europe by the First World War, in Russia it had been sensed and expressed fifty years earlier with the Emancipation of the serfs in 1861 (Russell 211). Moreover, a prevalent...

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