In 1873, just four years after publishing emWar and Peaceem, Leo Tolstoy started serializing his new novel emAnna Kareninaem in the conservative periodical emThe Russian Messengerem. Russia's liberal elite was outraged. Ivan Turgenev thought Tolstoy had wasted his talent on "piffle;" but Dostoevsky considered the enormous novel a "flawless work of art." In this first session on emAnna Kareninaem, we take the long view and take stock of the enormous variety of themes the novel contains (types of marriages and family life, city versus country, the economics of Russian agriculture, remorse and humiliation, faith and redemption). We then look at the famous first sentence of the novel and develop a possible structure of the book based on the types of family Tolstoy placed in opposition to one another. As we move along in the discussion we highlight many of the carefully constructed literary motives (especially the motive of looking and of sincere vs insincere speaking) that mark Tolstoy as a superior literary artist.moreless
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