Published October 1, 2020 | Version v1
Journal article Open

The ambivalence of Stavrogin: Benjamin's reading of Dostoevsky's character as a precursor of Surrealism

  • 1. University of Verona


This paper address the problem of Stavrogin’s ambivalence and Walter Benjamin’s interpretation of Dostoevsky’s hero in the essay Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia. Stavrogin is characterized by radical ambivalence, embodying the ultimate contradiction between the evil depicted in the crime of violating a child, and the utopic dream of the Golden Age. Benjamin sees Stavrogin as a precursor of surrealism and uses him to justify evil in the revolutionary practice of Surrealists. The first objective is to analyse Benjamin’s essay, to elaborate on how he understands surrealism and why he sees Stavrogin as its predecessor. Further on, I address what are the aesthetic and thematic implications of Benjamin’s reading and why in his concept of Stavrogin images and language precede the self and meaning. In the end, I propose that Benjamin’s Stavrogin opens other paths for understanding both Dostoevsky’s writing and Demons from the perspective of pre-surrealist literary techniques and poetics. 


Bjelica, The ambivalence of Stavrogin.pdf

Files (144.9 kB)

Name Size Download all
144.9 kB Preview Download

Additional details


INVITE – INnovative Verona university’s Inter-disciplinary, Inter-sectoral and International Training Experience 754345
European Commission