Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (LIT4293.01)

Alexandar Mihailovic

Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (1877) was a novel of bold ambitions. The book 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?

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 encouraging them to draw their own conclusions. Yet the novel also quite pointedly echoes Tolstoy’s strong political views, such as his endorsement of pacifism and his scathing critique of both organized religion and the colonialist aspirations of the Russian empire.

We will also examine Anna Karenina in the context of reform-era Russia after the abolition of serfdom in 1861, and in the light of feminist criticism and later literary texts and films that explicitly refer to the novel.


Learning Outcomes:



Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: Contact the instructor via email (amihailovic@bennington.edu) for permission to register.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
T/F 2:10PM - 4:00PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency: One time only

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