May 28, 2018

Dostoyevsky's Influence on the True Crime Genre

Jennifer Wilson, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses Feodor Dostoyevsky's relationship to today's extremely popular true crime genre (here, for the New York Times).  She says in part,

[T]oday’s true crime resurgence has an antecedent in the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the Russian author of numerous novels about murder including, most famously, “Crime and Punishment.” Dostoyevsky was obsessed with the judiciary. He spent considerable time watching trials, debating with lawyers about the nature of innocence and guilt, visiting the accused in prison and trying to sway public opinion about certain cases. So enmeshed were Dostoyevsky and his writing in the legal consciousness of czarist Russia that defense attorneys were known to invoke Rodion Raskolnikov, the charismatic murderer-protagonist of “Crime and Punishment,” when seeking sympathy from the jury.

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