Dr Katalin Gaal
My conference presentation is available for viewing at: http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:205802
The focus of my presentation is iconic representations and transformations in Dostoevsky's post-Siberian fiction and I argue that the transforming power of iconic beauty is vital to a full understanding and appreciation of the writer's works and religious philosophy. Iconic beauty refers to the moral or transforming aspects of the author's works corresponding with the objective of icons which is to spiritually transform the viewer.Dostoevsky lived in a time of turbulent social, economic and philosophical change, when the very idea of what it means to be human was questioned. The concept of humans created in the image and likeness of God was superseded by a new understanding of humanity as a group of social animals struggling for survival and economic prosperity, thereby eroding the power of religion in people's lives. The subsequent replacement of spiritual values with materialism, hedonism and egotism created a rupture in the moral fabric of society which has persisted to the present day. Dostoevsky's response to these developments was a strengthening of faith and an unceasing conviction in the importance of God for the flourishing of the human race. As a result his post-Siberian works express his vision of a world in which love and faith are the dominant forces, and where the struggle to attain the spiritual ideal that is our birthright takes precedence. His icon-like characters are images of purity, inner beauty and compassion and their interaction with the baser aspects of humanity forms the essence of the novels' narrative.Particular emphasis is placed on the way the characters of the major novels embody the ideal of the iconic archetype characterising Orthodox theology and artistic representation and the extent to which iconic beauty creates transformation in these works. A crucial aspect of my research findings is that the icon-like characters of the post-Siberian works are equally capable of transforming and regenerating their sinful environment but do not always receive the necessary response that is essential for transformation to unfold. My research provides the basis for a deeper understanding of the function of transformative beauty in Dostoevsky's works during an important period of his creative output and contributes to a reviving interest in the conceptualisation of beauty within a theological framework.