Count Leo Tolstoy’s life and writings encompass self-contradictions equaled in scale only by the immensity of his talent: the aristocrat who renounced his wealth, the former army officer who preached nonresistance to evil, the father of thirteen children who advocated total chastity within marriage and, of course, the writer of titanic stature who repudiated all he had previously written, including War and Peace and Anna Karenina. We will read these two masterworks in depth, along with other fictional and non-fictional writings ("The History of Yesterday," Childhood, Strider, Confession, Sebastopol Stories, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, "What Is Art?"), as we explore his abiding search for the meaning of ever-inaccessible "self," his far-reaching artistic innovations, and his evolving views on history, the family, war, death, religion, art, and education. Conducted in English, all readings in translation, with special assignments for students who read Russian. Two class meetings per week.
Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Wolfson