This article reconsiders Dostoevsky in relation to Schlegel’s idea of irony, which is based on the premise that the human subject is self-dividing. The romantic imagines to achieve a stable and united self, but that wish is continually shown futile in an infinite process of self-reflection. Romantic irony therefore is a mode of existence marked by a desire for an organic whole and the realization that such desire is impossible. The Dostoevsky’s hero is thrown to such ironic situation, where human subjectivity is continually confirmed and disconfirmed. The article first discusses references to Russian romanticism in Dostoevsky’s writings. It then moves on to a rereading of Notes from Underground and The Brothers Karamazov. Schlegel’s critical fragments are used throughout to illuminates the ironic quality of Dostoevsky’s writings. The article ends with a comparison between Dostoevsky and Schlegel’s views on irony.
ManPaul de ‘The Rhetoric of Temporality’ in Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary CriticismTheory and History of Literature7 (Minneapolis mn: University of Minnesota Press1983) 187–228.