English and Modern Languages


Master of Arts (MA)


Emily W Heady

Primary Subject Area

Literature, General; Literature, English


Charity, Dostoevsky, Eliot, Middlemarch, Sympathy, The Brothers Karamazov


The desire to know and be known is one of the driving forces of the human condition that seems to have been repeatedly examined to the point of cliché, and yet literature has the power to continue reinventing the same question of whether humans can actually understand one another on a deep level or whether they simply learn to coexist, never breaking out of the shell of self-interested perception. In the late nineteenth century as national and smaller communities seemed to be experiencing major upheavals, Fyodor Dostoevsky and George Eliot sought on different sides of Europe to communicate how novels could change the way individuals related to one another. Coming from a Christian point of view, Dostoevsky desired to ultimately point his readers to look outside of themselves the higher power of God, while Eliot substituted the communal organism itself as goal of living in sympathy toward others. While perhaps it is easy to meditate on the differences in context between these two figures that became regarded as voices of their age, both Dostoevsky and Eliot were writing with the same mindset that they could profoundly impact culture and change society through their fictional worlds that would teach their readers to embrace the idea of achieving an ideal community through acts of charity in the case of Dostoevsky and sympathy in Eliot's case.