Summer 2004

HUMS 650
War and Peace: Tolstoy and the Art of the Novel

Burt,Daniel S.

06/28/2004 - 08/11/2004
Tuesday & Thursday 05:30 PM - 08:00 PM

Fisk Hall 115

War and Peace has been described as "a dictionary of life, where one may look up any passion, any ambition, and find its meaning" (William Lyon Phelps), in which there is "hardly any subject of human experience that is left out" (Virginia Woolf), and a book that "helps to restore the balance and to recall our vision of humanity" (E.M. Forster). Tolstoy's translator, Aylmer Maude, wrote "I should like to live my life over again in order to have once again the pleasure of reading War and Peace for the first time." Spend this summer in your initial or multiple encounter with what many consider the novel's supreme achievement.

The class will provide a close reading of Tolstoy's masterpiece in manageable portions, examining the novel from a variety of contexts--critical, biographical, historical, and cultural--to enhance appreciation. We will relate War and Peace and Tolstoy's development as a writer to the development of the European novel and the various influences, from Cervantes to Dickens and Stendhal, on which Tolstoy drew to create his unique version of a narrative epic that subsumed history, fiction, and philosophy into an immense construct that is simultaneously intimate, abstract, and universal.

Students will be asked to keep a journal recording questions and reactions to the reading and encounters with scholarship dealing with the novel and its author from which a final critical or creative project will be formed. In addition, students will research and report on a significant aspect of 19th-century Russian life and culture.

Few other reading experiences can match a close encounter with War and Peace. Join us for an assault on Mount Tolstoy for the exhilaration of the climb and for the view!

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus

Daniel Burt (B.A. Colgate University; M.A., Ph.D. New York University) is author of The Chronology of American History, The Biography Book, and a three-volume critical guide to historical fiction. He has written extensively about Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett in The Literary 100 and The Novel 100, and on Shaw, Synge, O'Casey, and Friel in the forthcoming Drama 100.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Leo Tolstoy, WARE AND PEACE (W.W. Norton), Paperback


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