This is an explanation for passage 4 of LSAT preptest 64, the October 2011 LSAT. This passage is about differing views of literature in 19th century Russia, in particular Dostoyevsky’s .
This section has paragraph summaries and an analysis of the passage, links to the explanations for the questions are below.
- The two camps of Russian literary criticism (idealists vs. realists), and Dostoyevsky’s mixed view.
- Dostoyevsky says that there is no fixed reality.
- Dostoyevsky’s view that artistic merit is the most important thing.
- It’s very hard to measure how great art will eventually be useful.
Each paragraph has a clear purpose. When reading a passage, you should have two goals.
- Understanding everything.
- Understanding how it fits together and knowing where information is located.
So if, for example, you didn’t understand the third paragraph, it’s vital that you reread it. You need to know that Dostoyevsky didn’t believe art should necessarily serve political goals. Instead, art should be judged on whether the reader understood the author’s thoughts.
None of the ideas in this passage are particularly difficult, but they’re hard to keep track of. If you’re still unclear what any part of the passage means, practice looking over the passage a second time to make sure you understand it and get a sense of its organization.
A few key points. Dostoyevsky was a realist, but he mixed realism with fantasy, because he knew that there is no single, objective reality.
Art could serve a goal, but Dostoyevsky thought it could only fulfill its goal if it had merit. He said a novel had merit if it was well written and the reader could understand the author’s thoughts. Dostoyevsky thought it was silly to focus on usefulness. It’s hard to say whether something will be useful, or when. We value some art (such as the Iliad) even if we’re not sure how it was useful.
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