Turgenev, Extremism, and Aristotle's Solution to the Mean: An Interdisciplinary Case Study of Theory, Literature, and Contemporary Events

By Andrea Ciliotta-Rubery.

Published by The International Journal of Humanities Education

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: January 28, 2015 $US5.00

There can be little doubt that today’s university student is quite different from students of the past. Less informed and less well read, many students come to the classroom ill prepared to employ the analytical skills necessary for courses in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Confronting this new reality in an effective and timely manner seems to be one of the greatest challenges for contemporary academics. In a course entitled “Politics and Literature,” I have attempted to address this problem by having students engage in thematically broad and diverse reading curriculum, from the ancient to the modern world, in an effort to demonstrate the interconnectedness of those ideas and concepts present in the works of philosophy, literature, and contemporary politics. By uncovering the universal and transcendent themes of the diverse texts and applying them to contemporary events through class discussion, students begin to understand the complicated, shared, and lasting perils of the human condition. To this end, this paper provides a roadmap for textual examination and class discussion of Aristotle’s philosophic analysis of the “mean,” as it manifests itself through the characters of Turgenev’s “Fathers and Sons.” Standing out among other novels as one of the most useful texts for providing an understanding of political extremism and the possibility of its resolution, Turgenev’s work offers students a “literary” example of how political extremism betrays those who embrace its ideology, all the while reinforcing Aristotle’s teachings on moderation. This paper illustrates how an instructor may utilize noteworthy literary characters to reveal a philosophic tenet to students through class discussion, close textual analysis, and application to current political events. Use of this method will reinforce the goal of having students become more historic, better critical readers, and more knowledgeable about their place in the world today.

Keywords: Turgenev, Aristotle, Political Extremism, Mean, “Fathers and Sons”

The International Journal of Humanities Education, Volume 12, Issue 3-4, January 2015, pp.1-9. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: January 28, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 575.427KB)).

Dr. Andrea Ciliotta-Rubery

Professor, Department of Political Science and International Studies, SUNY--The College at Brockport, Honeoye Falls, New York, USA