The two-fold image and philosophy of personality in the works of F. M. Dostoevsky

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The two-fold image as Dostoevsky’s creative principle has been repeatedly observed and described from different perspectives in accordance with different research tasks. In this article, attention will be focused on the description of the two-fold image, its structure and functions, by Dostoevsky himself within the framework of his reflection on his creative method, as part of what can be called his own theory of creativity. In 1876, Dostoevsky describes the structure of a two-fold image from three different angles on three occasions over a short period of time: from the point of view of the structure as such; from the point of view of its manifestation and revelation in a work of fiction; from the point of view of its application as a working construct in a particular case for a particular person. Dostoevsky understands the two-fold image as a profound insight about the world and man, a fundamental philosophy of personality that provides the reader with clues to a personal transformation. At the same time, he always speaks about the second component of the image absolutely transparently to himself—but covertly to the reader, assuming that it is the enigmatic nature of its deep core that compels the reader to look at and listen to the implicit concept, making the image a working, transforming tool.

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  1. 1.

    According to Dostoevsky, a true writer is a person with a special eye. Such an eye is capable of opening the depth in the proximate and visible. Dostoevsky emphasizes that the purpose of a writer is to be the eye of humanity in order to plumb its depth, or to offer humanity his eyes, so that it can look into the depth and familiarize itself. Dostoevsky understands the two-fold image in that manner: at the heart of the most immediate contemporary event there is a story from the Gospels; in the heart of the most ordinary or least virtuous man there is Christ.

  2. 2.

    R. L. Jackson wrote about this type of image as an important structural element of Dostoevsky’s text (Jackson 1993), see also the analysis of Jackson’s approach and scientific method in the article (Emerson 1995). Olga Meerson (2019) considers a biblical text showing through the author’s text (and, accordingly, a biblical character showing through the personage) as a way that Dostoevsky uses in order to give an absolute judgment of what is happening, without objectifying and completing the hero, and without appropriating the "excess of vision" (Bakhtin 2000).

  3. 3.

    In quotes, italics denote ‘highlighted by me’, bold type—‘highlighted (in italics) by the quoted author.’—T. K.

  4. 4.

    “I want to say to you, about myself, that I am a child of this age, a child of unfaith and skepticism, and probably (indeed I know it) shall remain so to the end of my life. How dreadfully has it tormented me (and torments me even now)—this longing for faith, which is all the stronger for the proofs I have against it. And yet God gives me sometimes moments of perfect peace; in such moments I love and believe that I am loved; in such moments I have formulated my creed, wherein all is clear and holy to me. This creed is extremely simple; here it is: I believe that there is nothing lovelier, deeper, more sympathetic, more rational, more manly, and more perfect than the Saviour; I say to myself with jealous love that not only is there no one else like Him, but that there could be no one. I would even say more: If anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth really did exclude Christ, I should prefer to stay with Christ and not with truth" (Dostoevsky 1917, pp. 67–68).

  5. 5.

    With Dostoevsky, one of the main principles of text creation is—to "retreat" from the reader, leaving the reader enough space to choose: whether to come to the conclusion that is obvious to the author, or not going in the proposed direction if the reader is not ready for this yet: “Let the readers take the trouble to figure it out themselves” (Dostoevsky 1972–1990, vol. 11, p. 303).

  6. 6.

    Cited by (Tarasova 2019) since this phrase was incorrectly decoded in Dostoevsky's Complete Collected Works.

  7. 7.

    See a detailed analysis of this masterpiece by Dostoevsky in (Kasatkina 2018).

  8. 8.

    Dostoevsky addresses his letters to Maslyannikov while the man himself writes his name as Maslennikov.

  9. 9.

    From a poem by F. I. Tyutchev “Silentium.”.


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The research was carried out at the A. M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IWL RAS) funded by a grant from the Russian Science Foundation (RSF, Project No. 17-18-01432).

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Correspondence to Tatiana Kasatkina.

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Kasatkina, T. The two-fold image and philosophy of personality in the works of F. M. Dostoevsky. Stud East Eur Thought 72, 217–226 (2020).

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  • Dostoevsky
  • Philosophy of personality
  • Image theory
  • Creativity theory
  • The two-fold image