Term of Award

Spring 2013

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Literature and Philosophy

Committee Chair

Dustin Anderson

Committee Member 1

Hemchand Gossai

Committee Member 2

Joe Pellegrino

Committee Member 3

Joe Pellegrino


The literary and philosophical theory of semiotics considers signs and symbols. Pragmatics is the branch of semiotics that explicates the practical effects of a given interpretation according to its context. Through analyzing the pragmatic context of Crime and Punishment, one can begin to uncover the depth of meaning that the novel delivers. In The Limits of Interpretation, Umberto Eco talks about what he calls "intersubjective meaning," which helps a particular interpretation of a text attain "a privilege over any other possible interpretation spelled out without the agreement of the community" (40). The particular intersubjective meaning that needs to be developed with respect to Crime and Punishment is one in which faith-in Dostoevsky's case, the Christian faith-becomes the focal point for understanding the novel as a coherent text, especially in regard to Raskolnikov's fragmentary conversion to that faith. Even at the end of the novel, Raskolnikov is more on the threshold of Christian discipleship. As the narrator describes, Raskolnikov's conversion to such a disposition has been a long time in coming-a gradual realization of a force latent within the protagonist from the beginning. This thesis explores Raskolnikov's faith in light of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's understanding of Christian discipleship in The Cost of Discipleship. Raskolnikov is to a certain extent the same sort of Christian disciple whom Bonhoeffer describes in The Cost of Discipleship. According to Bonhoeffer, faith is authentic only insofar as it is lived through obedience. Bonhoeffer observes, "Without the preliminary step of obedience, our faith will only be pious humbug, and lead us to the grace which is not costly" (64). According to Bonhoeffer, authentic Christian virtue and asceticism ultimately derive from faith in Christ. Using Bonhoeffer's Christology as an interpretive lens to view Raskolnikov's discipleship, my thesis explores and to some extent explicates the pragmatics of understanding Crime and Punishment as a story of Christian discipleship.

Research Data and Supplementary Material