Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1877) was a novel of bold ambitions. The book is about betrayal as a bid for freedom that is fraught with consequences. Anna Karenina tells the story of the title character’s infidelity in a soulless marriage, while also portraying the ways in which all people struggle to transcend the roles that are socially assigned to them. What does it mean to be “free” in a society where women are increasingly treated as commodities for men, and in which the legacy of serfdom or unfree labor still hangs in the air, like the noxious smoke of a carelessly extinguished fire? Anna Karenina is both a book about the disproportionate burdens of women in unhappy marriages, and a meditation on the unexpected triumphs of living with others in ways that are new and substantially free. It is also a novel of paradoxes. Written by a member of the Russian nobility, the book is revolutionary and democratic in enabling readers to share in the interior struggles of characters, while also encouraging them to draw their own conclusions. We will examine Anna Karenina both in the context of reform-era Russia after the Emancipation in
1861, and in the light of feminist criticism and later literary texts and films that explicitly refer to the novel.
Course Level: 2000-level
M/Th 1:40PM-5:20PM (2nd seven weeks)
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency: One time only
Categories: All courses , Literature , Updates