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The Perverted Ideal in Dostoevsky's «The Devils»

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Nancy Anderson

The Devils (also translated as The Possessed) is one of the four major novels of the great nineteenth-century Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. This book is the first full-length English-language study of The Devils to examine the novel as a unified whole. Its approach is based upon recognition of a central theme of Dostoevsky's thought: the human need of and search for an ideal transcending the needs and demands of one's own self. Such an ideal may be expressed in many spheres - in religion, in the relations between human beings, and in aesthetics. As this work demonstrates, The Devils is a powerful psychological and sociological study of what occurs when the ideal of transcendence is denied in each of these spheres and a perverted ideal - an anti-ideal - is set up in its place.