HUMS 255, Tolstoy’s War and Peace

Meeting Time: 
MW 9:25-10:15am + section

Course Description

The course is a semester-long study of the quintessential big Russian novel, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, about Napoleon’s failed 1812 war against Russia. War and Peace (1865-1869) is a sweeping panorama of nineteenth-century Russian society, a novel of profound philosophical questions, and an unforgettable gallery of artfully drawn characters. Reading the novel closely, we pose the following questions. In what ways is this patriotic war epic also an imperial novel? What myths does it destroy and construct? How does it combine fiction and history? What forces drive history, as it unfolds in the present? What are the limits of individual agency, and how much do emperors and generals control the fates of nations and armies? Finally, a question that is never too broad for Tolstoy: what is a meaningful, well-lived life? We explore these questions while refining our tools of literary analysis and situating the novel in its historical context and in our contemporary world. Secondary materials include Tolstoy’s letters, contemporary reviews, maps, and historical sources, as well as readings in political theory, philosophy, international relations, and literary criticism. 

All readings and class discussions in English.  No prerequisites required. Both WR and non-WR sections are offered.

Led by:

Edyta Bojanowska's picture

Professor Edyta Bojanowska

Professor Bojanowska’s scholarly interests include: 19th century Russian literature and intellectual history, empire and nation in Russian culture, postcolonial and settler colonial studies, history of globalization, ideology, travel writing, journalism and serialization, intertextuality, reception studies, theories of the spatial turn, Central European literatures, especially Polish