Pepperdine professor Paul J. Contino is a well-known and well-regarded scholar and teacher of Christianity and literature, and he proves himself an engaging and insightful guide to The Brothers Karamazov with this new study. “I began work on this book over thirty years ago,” he notes. Such candor might invite snarks about the speed of academic writing, but instead it confirms something else altogether: the fruits that come from a lifetime of reading, teaching, and reflecting on a major work of world literature that has rare capacities, as a novel, to engage the fullness of human experience—on the page and in the reader.
That transformative fullness, as is well known to generations of readers, comes most notably from the irreducibly religious features of The Brothers Karamazov, in terms of both its ideas and action, which Contino attends to via a quietly confident comprehensive reading. The effort displays a particular attentiveness to the novel’s theological and intellectual underpinnings—with related discussions of Kierkegaard, Orthodox theology, Augustine, Aquinas, and more, alongside Scriptural citations—while never scanting on the novel’s secular components and on modern scholarship and theory, particularly the work of Mikhail Bakhtin.