World Lit. 118
Summer 2008 Prof. K. McKenna

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: An Epic of 19th-Century Russian Social and Cultural Life Tolstoy’s epic novel, Anna Karenina, has attracted the attention and admiration of readers around the world for more than a century. Its epic sweep of 19th-century cultural and intellectual life, social mores, and philosoph-ical ideas reveals a wealth of detail about contemporary historical issues and social concerns in Russia at the time: the role of “enlightened reason” in Russian life; the “wom-en’s question” and the status of women in mid-19th-cen-tury Russian society; the role of agriculture in the Russian economy; the peasant in post-emancipation Russia; the impact of the railroad and industrialization in the latter half of the 19th century; the role of the family on the path to “human happiness.” With the help of the latest trans-lation (2001) of “Anna Karenina,” by an award-winning translation team, the power and sweep of Tolstoy’s novel is more accessible to American audiences than it has ever been in the past. Our class discussion will examine the novel from a variety of historical and literary perspectives, with particular em-phasis on the social and cultural backgrounds of Russian life at the time the novel was written.

Reading Assignments

July 1st: General Introduction to course. Description of grading system. Introductory Lecture on Leo Tolstoy and his place in Russian Literature. July 3rd: Lecture on the “family novel” in Europe at the time of Tolstoy write his novel. Lecture on Tolstoy’s early drafts of the novel. Discussion of the “architectural structure” of Tolstoy’s novel. READ: Part I of the novel. July 8th: Lecture on the relationship between history and literature in the 19thcentury Russian novel. Discussion of structure and themes in Part II of the novel. Discussion of the thematic significance of Kitty’s “illness” and trip to Europe, where she meets Madame Stahl (Chapts. 1-3). What is meant by the “world of Russian society” in Chapts. 4-7? What values, in your opinion, are beginning to define “Anna’s world” as opposed to “Levin’s world?” READ: Part II. July 10th: Lecture on social and cultural developments in Russia fol-lowing the emancipation of the serfs. Discussion of Levin’s views on Russian vs. European agriculture and how this relates to the novel. What strikes you as thematically significant about Levin’s mowing scene in Part III with the peasants? What message does Tolstoy seem to be imparting to his readers here? READ: Part III. [Distribution of optional take-home essay questions for those of you choosing to write a mid-term essay..] July 15th: Lecture on the role of “ideas” and ideology in mid-19th-century Russian literature and how they are developed in Anna Karenina. Discus-sion of the meaning and significance of the “Anna theme” in Part IV. How does the relationship and betrothal of Levin and Kitty differ from that of Anna and Vronsky? READ: Part IV. [Distribution of take-home final essay questions.] July 17th: Lecture on Tolstoy’s views on Russian social and intellectual life. Discussion of the alternating thematic patterns of Anna Karenina: the “Levin” story vs. the “Anna” story. What structural and thematic scenes in Part V of the novel link the “Anna theme” to the “Levin theme?” What conclusions do you draw from

this comparison? What is the significance, in your opinion, of Anna’s and Vronsky’s three-month stay in Italy? READ: Part V.

July 22nd: Lecture on Russian religious views of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Discussion of the theme of “family” as developed in Tolstoy’s novel. What significance do you find in the idyllic opening chapter of Part VI? How does life at Anna’s and Vronsky’s country estate differ from that on Levin and Kitty’s estate? READ: Part VI.

July 24th: Lecture on “structuralist” vs. post-structuralist views of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Discussion of the contrast between the “Levin story” and the “Anna story” in Part VII of the novel. What views do you develop about the nature of “Anna’s story” in Part VII? Read: Part VII.

July 29th: Lecture on Tolstoy’s metaphysics and aesthetics, as expressed in his What Is Art? and how they relate to the novel. Discussion of the conclusion to Anna Karenina: various modes of contemporary and modern interpretations of Tolstoy’s novel. READ: Part VIII. July 31st: Conclusion to our discussion of the novel. Help session for anyone wishing assistance in addressing issues related to their final take-home essay for this course. RECOMMENDED OUTSIDE READINGS Alexandrov, Vladimir E., Limits to Interpretation: The Meanings of ‘Anna Karenina (University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, 2004). Bayley, John, Tolstoy and the Novel (Chatto and Windus, London, 1966).

Berlin, Isaiah, The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy’s View of History (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1966). Blackmur, R. P., “The Dialectic of Incarnation: Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.” Tolstoy: A Collection of Critical Essays. Edited by Ralph E. Matlaw (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1967, 127-145. Harold Bloom, ed., Leo Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’ (Chelsea, New York, 1987). Christian, R. F. Tolstoy: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 1969). Eikhenbaum, Boris, Tolstoy in the Seventies, trans. Albert Kaspin (Ardis, Ann, Arbor, 1982). Emerson, Caryl, “Prosaics in Anna Karenina: Pro and Con.” Tolstoy Studies Journal, vol. 8 (1995-1996), 150-176. ` Evans, Mary, Anna Karenina (Routledge, London and New York, 1989). Leavis, F. R. Anna Karenina and Other Essays (Chatto and Windus, Lodon, 1967). Mandelker, Amy, Framing ‘Anna Karenina’: Tolstoy, the Woman Question, and the Victorian Novel (Ohio State University Press, Columbus, 1993). Orwin, Donna Tussing, Tolstoy’s Art and Thought, 1847-1880 (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1993). George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, An Essay n the Old Criticism (New York, 1959).

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