Robert L. Belknap (1929-2014)

Robert L. Belknap, Professor Emeritus of Russian in the Department of Slavic Languages, was a magisterial teacher of literature in true Columbia tradition, a guiding intellect and scholar in the field of Russian literature, a committed educator who devoted his energy and vision to making Columbia an institution to be proud of.  A native New Yorker, Belknap was educated at Princeton University, the University of Paris, Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) State University, and Columbia University (Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and Literatures, 1960). He was known the world over as an expert on Russian literature, on Dostoevsky, in particular.  He was the author of two major studies on Dostoevsky’s masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov:  The Structure of The Brothers Karamazov (1967, reprinted 1989) and The Genesis of the Brothers Karamazov (1992), which both appeared in Russian translation. The intellectual excitement that Robert Belknap generated in his classrooms is legendary.  His repertory ranged over the canon of Russian literature.  He taught Literature Humanities in the Columbia Core curriculum for over fifty years.  Students chose him for the Van Doren Great Teacher Award in 1980 and alumni chose him for the Society of Columbia Graduates Great Teacher Award in 2010. [Read more here; read his essay on teaching in Harriman Magazine].