CCU’s immersion to Russian culture

The Dostoevsky Reading Group has recently resurfaced at Coastal Carolina University, bringing the perspective of renowned Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky. 

Anna Oldfield, a professor of world literature, said there’s been a showing of interest in the group returning. The group holds weekly meetings where they read and discuss a chapter from one of Dostoevsky’s novels. The first meeting of the year took place in late January.  

Oldfield said during the pandemic, the popularity of Dostoevsky’s work saw an increase not only at Coastal, but also around the world.  

She said Dostoevsky, along with other Russian writers, has work that leans on the darker side. Oldfield said many students in her literature classes found this perspective refreshing. 

“Russian literature gives you what I think you can’t find in Hollywood,” she said. “There are no happy endings.” 

Oldfield said many of her Russian literature students felt American stories tend to want to pull people away from harsh realities. She said Russians tend to prefer more relatable endings. 

Still, despite Dostoevsky’s more depressing, philosophical style, Oldfield added he also had a great sense of humor.  

“It’s even funnier in Russian than in translation,” she said.  

While language and cultural barriers are a given, Oldfield said many translations contain footnotes for context. Even with cultural differences, she said America and Russia are more similar than people would think.  

For example, she said many well-known American authors are popular in Russia too. These include names such as Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Mark Twain and William Faulkner.  

Despite Dostoevsky being as prolific as he is, some might find he’s not as recognized among Americans as someone like Mark Twain is. This could be due to the United States having a larger number of cultural exports than most countries.  

Oldfield added to this, recalling an experience she heard from students who visited America from Kazakhstan. She said they were very familiar with American culture, but they were surprised to find Americans weren’t familiar with theirs.  

“The whole world knows about us,” Oldfield said. 

She said this situation is partly due to lack of access, but also lack of interest. Still, Oldfield said she finds people do enjoy learning about other cultures. Students, faculty, and anyone else interested are welcome to join the reading group. 

The group is currently reading “The Brothers Karamazov.” They meet on Fridays at 11 a.m. in Brittain Hall 201.