English Seminar Capstone Research Papers

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Capstone Project

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Although theologians today recognize the importance of apologetics, they struggle to find an approach that can advocate for Christianity amidst the postmodern shift in America. One such unexplored apologetic may be found in The Brothers Karamazov, a novel by the nineteenth century writer, Fyodor Dostoevsky. Since its publication in 1880, scholars have acclaimed this Russian novel for its masterful presentation of Christianity in literature. “Dostoevsky is to me both the greatest novelist, as such, and the greatest Christian storyteller, in particular, of all time,” writes theologian J.I. Packer (Packer). However, while critics like Packer correctly emphasize the theological nature of the novel, they consistently overlook its apologetic concerns. The central event of the text, the murder of Fyodor Pavlovich, does much more than raise questions concerning the meaning of life amongst the Karamazovs. More specifically, the crime ignites a central debate in which brothers Ivan and Alyosha draw from their respective worldviews of atheism and Christianity to offer conflicting explanations for the moral issues they face. This polemical structure of the novel suggests that Dostoevsky, himself a Christian, sought to engage in apologetics through his fiction writing.


Apologetics, Dostoevsky, postmodernism, Russia, literature, nineteenth century, Christianity, atheism, Bakhtin, polyphony


Donald Deardorff

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