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Notes on Notes from Underground Introduction In the context of works we read in Liberal Studies Dostoevskys Notes from Underground strikes a new and very dissonant chord although as I shall mention later the sound is one we should recognize clearly enough if we are at all familiar with some of the more important heroic figures from twentieth-century literature For in this work Dostoevsky is holding up for our inspection and appreciation if that is the right word his vision of modern heroism or more precisely put perhaps his vision of what heroism has become in modern times The central thrust of the work is designed to force us to recognize some significant transformations in the ability of human beings including most importantly ourselves as readers to construct good lives for ourselves lives that is worthy of the sort of admiration and respect traditionally reserved for heroic individuals Before exploring in more detail just how Dostoevskys narrative does this however we might pause briefly to recall a few very general features of heroic conduct as that is defined by the tradition After all Dostoevsky is writing very much in response to that tradition both in history and in fiction and is clearly counting on the challenge to that tradition to provoke his readers Cultural heroes--from history or fiction--as we have encountered them so far have virtually all had a few qualities in common First and foremost is their ability to act in the world to make decisions carry those out deal with the consequences They might not always succeed and in some cases might be horribly wrong and suffer greatly and die for what they have chosen to do or they might have to adjust apologize learn from mistakes Their efforts to confront life may defeat them or they may emerge as triumphant revolutionaries as sturdy defenders of traditional values or as quiet middle-class wives and mothers fathers or children The key element is
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