BASEES Annual Conference 2022

'Illuminating the chaos and obscurity': polyphony in Fyodor Dostoevsky and Elena Ferrante

Fri8  Apr04:00pm(20 mins)
Games Room


Sarah Hudspith, Olivia Santovetti


This paper examines the dialogue between the the 19th century Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky and the 21st century Italian novelist Elena Ferrante. Ferrante is one of the most critically acclaimed and popular novelists on the global stage today, and has acknowledged a debt to Dostoevsky. As well as sharing thematic similarities in their fiction, Dostoevsky and Ferrante both place significant emphasis on the role of the writer, through their fictional narrators and in autobiographical writings. This paper analyses the way in which Dostoevsky and Ferrante use polyphonic techniques to address their shared preoccupation with the artifice of writing, and their concern that authentic writing should reveal to readers a ‘firsthand knowledge of the terror’ (Ferrante, 2016). The analysis is illustrated via a parallel reading of Dostoevsky’s The Adolescent and Ferrante’s latest novel The Lying Life of Adults.