Slavic 134D: Leo Tolstoy

TuTh 5-6:30, 223 Dwinelle. Instructor: Irina Paperno.

Units: 4 Satisfies L&S Philosopy & Values OR Arts & Literature breadth requirement.

A great novelist, Tolstoy has been also known as a moral philosopher, innovative psychologist, aspiring historian, religious reformer, and social activist. Such questions as “Who, what am I?”—“What shall we do then?” – “How do I believe?”– “What is art?” – “What is death?” (and more) were a no less important part of Tolstoy’s creative endeavors. Tolstoy even rewrote the Gospels. His influence has been immense. One critic said: “Tolstoy is not a man, but an institute for the study of himself.” A contemporary journalist called him a “second Tsar”; others called him a “saint Leo.” In the years that followed, Tolstoy’s influence as a moral thinker was acknowledged by Mahatma Gandhi in India and Martin Luther King in America. How did this come to be? What can we learn from Tolstoy today? The course will offer a study of Leo Tolstoy’s works, life, and death treated from this perspective.

Prerequisites: None. Required readings and lectures in English.  Students with advanced knowledge of Russian are encouraged to do at least some reading in Russian.

Workload: substantial and intense weekly readings; a midterm, a paper, and a final examination (exams are focused on close reading of the texts).

Texts include: Childhood; “Sevastopol Stories,” Anna Karenina (the Norton Critical Edition); Confession; Kreutzer Sonata, selections from Tolstoy’s diaries, religious, philosophical and moral writings. Selections from Plato, Kant, Schopenhauer, and other thinkers.

With concurrent enrollment in Slavic 134R (1 unit), students can also read War and Peace or write a research paper (10-15 pages) on a topic of individual choice (enrollment in the research unit, upon instructor’s approval, will be open in the Fall).