1st Edition

Education and the Limits of Reason Reading Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Nabokov

By Peter Roberts, Herner Saeverot Copyright 2018
    176 Pages
    by Routledge

    152 Pages
    by Routledge

    In recent decades, a growing body of educational scholarship has called into question deeply embedded assumptions about the nature, value and consequences of reason. Education and the Limits of Reason extends this critical conversation, arguing that in seeking to investigate the meaning and significance of reason in human lives, sources other than non-fiction educational or philosophical texts can be helpful.

    Drawing on the work of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Nabokov, the authors demonstrate that literature can allow us to see how reason is understood and expressed, contested and compromised – by distinctive individuals, under particular circumstances, in complex and varied relations with others. Novels, plays and short stories can take us into the workings of a rational or irrational mind and show how the inner world of cognitive activity is shaped by external events. Perhaps most importantly, literature can prompt us to ask searching questions of ourselves; it can unsettle and disturb, and in so doing can make an important contribution to our educational formation.

    An original and thought provoking work, Education and the Limits of Reason offers a fresh perspective on classic texts by Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Nabokov, and encourages readers to reconsider conventional views of teaching and learning. This book will appeal to a wide range of academics, researchers and postgraduate students in the fields of education, literature and philosophy.

    Introduction: Education and the Limits of Reason 

    1. Troubling Reason: Notes from Underground Revisited 

    2. Love, Attention and Teaching: The Brothers Karamazov 

    3. Passion as a Quality of Education: The Death of Ivan Ilyich 

    4. Education, Rationality and the Meaning of Life: Tolstoy’s Confession 

    5. Pedagogy of the Gaze: An Educational Reading of Lolita 

    6. Education Arrayed in Time: Nabokov and the Problem of Time and Space 

    Conclusion: Literature, Philosophy and Education 




    Peter Roberts is Professor of Education at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. His primary areas of scholarship are philosophy of education and educational policy studies. His research interests include the ethics and politics of education, literature and education (with a particular focus on the work of Dostoevsky, Hesse and Camus), and tertiary education policy.

    Herner Saeverot is Professor of Education at Western Norway University in Norway. His research focuses on existential education, literature and education, national and international perspectives of educational research, and educational policy. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Nordic Studies in Education.

    ‘Inviting us to move away from what has reduced education to an economy of measure, assessment, and application, this book is a golden opportunity to journey inwards, from the bounds of education’s limits to the paradox of its immanence. Doing so through the works of literary giants like Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Nabokov, Roberts and Saeverot regale us with a way out of the quandary by which education has been consumed. Education and the Limits of Reason provides its readers with a powerful iteration by which we could all begin to liberate ourselves from the limits of schooled reason, where we have mostly and wilfully lost the capacity to critique. One hopes that this volume also offers teachers, young and old, neophyte or experienced, a renewed hope in the passions that pushed them to take up their profession in the first place.’ - John Baldacchino, Professor of Arts Education and Director of the Arts Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    ‘The fiction of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Nabokov subverts our settled and often moralistic worlds. Peter Roberts and Herner Saeverot show how wider and deeper rationalities are at work in these great writers: we are caught up in the ‘educative deceit’ of Lolita, for example. In contrast to the frantic cyber-world, they challenge us with the rewards of slow, contentious reading, where the familiar is made strange –there’s reason-ing way beyond traditional logocentric philosophy-of-education. Roberts and Saeverot are utterly honest in exposing how slow, unsettling literature expands our capacity to reason. This book is a significant contribution to the humanity of education, which, through its very publication, unsettles the current reductive momentum of education into the social sciences.’ - David Beckett, Professor in Education, The University of Melbourne, Australia.

    ‘Roberts and Saeverot provide in this scholarly reading of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy and Nabokov an expertly constructed bridge between philosophy, literature and education. Much needed, timely and insightful, the authors and their volume deserve a rightful place in an ancient and today ever more important field of interdisciplinary enquiry.’ - Liam Francis Gearon, Senior Research Fellow, Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford, and Co-