Dostoevsky Notes from Underground Blog Assignment

Write a query to an advice column in the style of the underground man or of one of the characters in the story (for example, as the underground man’s servant Apollon). Answer at least one question by another student in the style of the advice columnist whom the underground man (or another character) addresses. See Wikipedia’s entry on the “Advice column” for a list of popular columnists. For a near sample, see Letters with Character at You may write to what the Wikipedia page describes as as “Agony Blog,” where everything is intended to be recognizably fake. Each student must post a minimum of one question and one answer.

Some basic guidelines for questions, which are New Topic on the Blog Post:

  1. You must address a particular advice columnist by name (Dear Prudence, Dear Abby, etc.)
  2. The problem must be recognizable as deriving from the underground man (in his style) and must be associated with a particular episode in the story.
  3. The styling of the question (length, subject matter, etc.) must be one suited to the style of questions that the particular advice columnist is likely to answer. If you have an edgy question, ask an edgy advice columnist.
  4. Must sign off in advice columnist style (i.e., Lonely in St. Petersburg)
  5. In brief bibliographical note (writing as yourself the student, not Dostoevsky character), explain which episode and character you are using as the source for your question. Cite source in formal citation style. Explain which advice columnist you query (if not linked on Wikipedia Advice Column).

Some basic guidelines for answers, which are responses to the thread on the Blog Post:

  1. You must address the questioner, i.e., “Dear…”
  2. You must provide answer in the style of serious (or sarcastic or humorous) advice. And you must answer in a recognizable imitation of the queried columnist. Or, you must explain why you, a different advice columnist, have decided to take this question.
  3. You are encouraged to base your answer in part on what you know is the “real reason” the character is writing (i.e., you are permitted to flaunt your inside knowledge of underground man’s story).
  4. In brief bibliographical note (writing as yourself the student, not advice columnist–you may enter these bibliographical deatails as comment on your own post if you prefer not to spoil the seeming purity of the question), explain what part of the story you are basing your “inside knowledge” on. Cite Dostoevsky source in formal style: MLA, Chicago, APA, etc. Be sure to specify any particular section of the text to which you refer in clear form like chapter number and page range: this is required if you quote or paraphrase.

Grade based on following:

  1. (20 percent) Proper grammar, spelling, and bibliographical citation (MLA or Chicago or APA style, in comment on your own post if you prefer to maintain unbroken surface in your question).
  2. (30 percent) Recognizable imitation in question that echoes closely a particular episode in Dostoevsky’s Notes. You may quote without quotation marks so long as your “bibliographical note” explains that you have done so. See my guide for blog post handout in which I explain source from which advice stolen.
  3. (30 percent) Answer that both attends to the question asked and responds in recognizable imitation of particular advice columnist.
  4. (20 percent) Going above and beyond. Being exceptionally funny. Picking unusual character or unusual episode for which other students have to really work to do well. Answering more than one question.

For samples, see Ask E. Jean at Elle magazine or Dear Prudence at Slate. Here’s a sample. Writing as Liza, compose a letter to E. Jean asking whether you should see the underground man again, maybe just once. Or, again as Liza, ask Prudence whether you should return home since living in the big city is going so badly. Or, as
Apollon, ask Dear Abby what you should do about the 7 rubles that the underground man owes you. Make these characters live through their own words as foils to the word that the underground man uses to control them.

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