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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2007

E 322 • Tolstoy's War and Peace

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34390 TTh
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
CBA 4.344

Course Description

The Fictions of History--
Ortega y Gassett may have had War and Peace in mind when he wrote that "to enjoy a novel we must feel completely surrounded by it on all sides." This course will offer students a chance to immerse themselves in Tolstoy's epic novel. In fact, War and Peace can only be called a novel in an approximate sense, for it is among other things a meditation on the problem of writing history as well as a restless attempt to redefine the boundaries of literature. If Natasha, Prince Andrei and Pierre Bezukhov remain with us long after we have finished the book, so does the society they inhabit, as a result of Tolstoy's phenomenal ability to connect individual destinies to the surrounding world. Reading War and Peace opens us up to the strangeness of the past, to the arbitrary and accidental nature of events, and to the multiplicity of fates involved. Above all, War and Peace refutes the tendency to think of history as the product of a few great men. As Tolstoy wrote in the Second Epilogue,"modern history," like a deaf man, answers questions no one has asked.

In reading War and Peace, the course will explore the work's historical background, critical reception, and its filiations with other works of historical fiction (such as the novels of Walter Scott).

Grading Policy

1) Regular attendance and participation.
2) Completion of required reading by assigned date (see syllabus).
3) Course Work/Credit:

Short Essay/Rewrite (5 pages/rewrite 5 pages) 20%
Long Essay (10-12 pages) 40%
Thesis statement and outline (2 pages)
In-Class Essays (1-3 pages each) 20%
Informed Participation/Class Discussion (including email submission of commentary/insights on weekly/biweekly assignments) 20%


Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace (Norton Critical Edition)
Isaiah Berlin, Russian Thinkers


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