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I need to cite in my paper various "classic" works (Russian writers of the XIX century etc). In the text it is relevant to specify the year of the original novel, for example "Dostoyevsky in his 'The Brothers Karamazov' (1879) [..]".

Of course, the copy I have and used is a much more recent one. What to add in the bibliography? I'd say the 2010 copy I have, but isn't it confusing to have a year in the text and a different year in the bibliography? Thanks

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Under MLA, the year used in a citation is the date of publication for the work you're citing, not the original year of the work in question.

The reason for this is because a number of things could change between different publications: different forewords, translations, prefaces, grammar and spelling changes ...

The example format for your book would be something like:

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor, and Constance Garnett. The Karamazov Brothers. Ware, England: Wordsworth Classics, 2010. Print.

(If it helps, I use http://www.easybib.com/ for generating bibliographic references and citations.)

Update: Sorry, forgot to add. MLA uses (Author Page) for in-text citations if I'm not mistaken. If you want to use (Author, Year), it should be year published, not the original year first published.

Another Update: Last one, I promise! In your example, you appear to want to show the year it was first published as a fact, not as an in-text citation, so you're better off writing something like:

Dostoyevsky, in his 'The Brothers Karamazov', first published in 1879, [..]

Or alternatively:

Dostoyevsky, in his 'The Brothers Karamazov' (first published in 1879), [..]

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I was just writing an answer with the same statement. You are the faster one. –  Nerevar Jun 8 '11 at 11:44
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