The alientated human being and the possiblity of home : a comparitive analysis of Fyodor Dostoevsky's 'Crime and Punishment' and Jack Kerouac's 'Desolation Angels'

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


This thesis addresses the state of human alienation as a consciousness that pervades our destructive, perverse tendencies. This consciousness is readily viewable from the perspective of current environmental crisis. As such, it is proposed that an investigation into the alienated consciousness might reveal both why we dominate and destroy our environment and ourselves, as well as how we might resolve alienation and, by extension, begin to live harmoniously within our surroundings and neighbors on earth. Two texts, Crime and Punishment and Desolation Angels, by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Jack Kerouac, respectively, are exemplary of the type of human alienation discussed in this thesis: that is, the alienation that arises from our perceived existence as neither gods (stewardship) nor animals (beasts). This anomalous state is further revealed through the inclusion of Emmanuel Levinas' Totality and Infinity, which condemns our totalistic trajectory as reinforcing alienation by obstructing the trajectory of infinity, or the proper course of humanity marked by ethics of interconnectivity and diversity. Also included is Mikhail Bakhtin's Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, which helps reveal how ethics of interconnectivity and diversity are arranged in Dostoevsky's work. By reading these texts together, we reveal that alienation is a unique derivative of particular socio-cultural spaces, and that the modernizing human trajectory since the burgeoning of capitalism in 1860s Russia to postwar America has only served to reinforce alienation, thus linking perverse destruction to exploitative societies as marked by the pursuit of material gain. We therefore conclude that keen attention must be paid to the human ego as well as dedication to sustainability through the reduction of excess if we wish to resolve alienation and the domination and exhaustion of resources and diversity that ensues.




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