ECLA Header

ISU 2007: The Mantle of the Prophet - Demons, Saints, and Terrorists

July 11 - August 27

On the very day of Dostoyevsky's funeral, in January 1881, his good friend, the philosopher Vladimir Solovyev, called the deceased novelist a "prophet", a theme that has been repeated over and over again with regard to the fall of the tsarist monarchy and the Russian Revolution, to Communism, Fascism and other forms of totalitarianism. In reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11 the French philosopher André Glucksman published an essay under the title Dostoyevsky in Manhattan.

Based on a real case of political murder, the so-called "Nechaev Affair", Demons, more than any other of Dostoyevsky's novels, probably deserves to be characterized as "prophetic". During the six-week programme of the summer university, students and faculty explored some of its numerous moral, religious and political implications as, for example, the historical and metaphysical roots of terrorism, its various embodiments from state terror to individual violence and, more generally, the "death of God", the "deification of man", nihilism and existentialism.

In addressing these issues, students and faculty discussed a variety of philosophical, literary and historical texts, including such authors as Albert Camus (The Stranger), Heinrich von Kleist (Michael Kohlhaas), Serguei Nechaev (Catechism of a Revolutionary), Carl Schmitt (Theory of the Partisan), and Friedrich Nietzsche (On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense). The text-based core component of the curriculum was complemented by the visual (films, museum visits, art history) and component visits in and around Berlin.