WORDS OF HOPE // FRIDAY, SEPT 29  9-10:50AM (RM 201)

The Beauty of Orthodoxy: the aesthetic center to Dostoevsky's ecofeminist vision in The Brothers Karamazov
Kirsten McAllister

Dostoevsky's masterpiece The Brother’s Karamazov is known for its profound Christian vision of nature as being deeply interconnected with the beauty of God. Writing in opposition to the hyper-rationalistic intellectuals of modern Russia, Dostoevsky offers an alternative vision which illuminates the beauty of life rather than making a formula of its meaning. During his time and ours, one of the effects of modernization has been to disembody us and to cause us to disregard the physical world. Ecofeminism as a discipline recognizes how this trajectory can be traced to both the devaluation of women and of the earth. While the Christian vision has often been blamed for this loss, a more orthodox sacramental theology is able to reconcile spirit with matter so as to revalue femininity and the earth at the same time. Contrary to society in the western world then and now, Dostoevsky’s aesthetic vision insists that there must be a tangible encounter with beauty before truth can be understood. The three mystics in the novel, Markel, Zosima and Alyosha, come into right relationship with people and with God only through a distinctly feminine receptivity to the natural world. For them, these experiences are not only ecstatic but also deeply connected to their suffering. Instead of resisting the aspect of the physical world which humans are always trying to escape, they ask for forgiveness of the whole world for what suffering they might have caused it (even of the birds). By drawing on an orthodox, and specifically Eastern Orthodox theology which would have been familiar to Dostoevsky, I will suggest that a total embrace of the beauty of the world also requires suffering. I will discuss how our art practices today exhibit awareness of our need for a renewed vision of femininity and the earth, but are perhaps suspicious of beauty because we are resistant to the suffering which comes with being fully embodied in the world.


Kirsten is a 4th year English major at Trinity Western University. She is currently the co-managing editor of [Spaces], the literary journal on campus, and last year she served as the Arts and Culture Editor for TWU's student newspaper. Her interests range from the intersection of literature and theology as they inform the everyday experience, to philosophical children’s books.