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Teaching Ethics

Volume 16, Issue 1, Spring 2016

Christopher L. Doyle
Pages 91-102

Raskolnikov in the Classroom
Teaching the Costs of Violence With Crime and Punishment

This essay argues for the efficacy of teaching Feodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment as a hedge against cultural predispositions to legitimize violence in history, contemporary society, and popular entertainment. Describing how high school students have been conditioned to accept certain kinds of violence, the essay also shows how a class of high school students responds to four key scenes from the novel. The essay asserts that both the historical context of Crime and Punishment and Dostoyevsky’s creative brilliance make this novel a particularly potent work for encouraging students to rethink casual acceptance and uses of violence.

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