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Smith, S.S. Isotoff, A. (1935). The Abnormal from within: Dostoevsky. Psychoanal. Rev., 22(4):361-391.

(1935). Psychoanalytic Review, 22(4):361-391

The Abnormal from within: Dostoevsky

S. Stephenson Smith and Andrei Isotoff


Assuming that the novel can furnish quasi-scientific evidence as to the plausibility of certain psychological theories, with what interpretations in abnormal psychology is Dostoevsky in closest accord?

I.   The Mind of Dostoevsky.

II.  Psychoanalytic Interpretations of His Characters.

III. Case-Studies from the Novels, in the light of psychiatry and psychopathology.

Clinical Cases: Epilepsies, Senile Dementia, Hysterias.


The Bearing of Dreams.

IV.  Summary and Critical Conclusions.

Dostoevsky's epileptoids accord to the accounts of Kraepelin and Rosanoff; his hysterics fit the pattern described by Charcot and Grasset; the erotomanias are like those which Trelat observed; Raskolnikov's is a case of autistic personality, as Rosanoff portrays it; Stavrogin's an instance of what Kraepelin called “moral insanity.” On symptoms and prognosis, then, Dostoevsky accords with the psychiatrists and psychopathologists.

In most of his cases, we must be content to mark the etiology “unknown” The usual notion that Dostoevsky anticipated Freud and Jung, is shown to be mistaken. The Russian novelist did not believe in psychic causation. Dostoevsky's extensive use of Carus' Psyche (1846), which strangely resembles psychoanalytic doctrine in terms and hypotheses, is sufficient to account for the apparent anticipations of psychoanalysis which have been detected in the novels. Actually, the parallels between Freud and Carus are not those of central doctrine, but of linguistic terminology which really has in the two authors a different ideological content.

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