RUSS 194: Tolstoy's War and Peace
Fall 2006, M-W-F 10:50-11:50, HUM 212


Gitta Hammarberg
Office: HUM 209C, 696-6556
Office hours:
Mon & Wed 2:20-3:20
Home phone:

Send Email to Class

Blom, Eric Johannes Email
Bootes, Wendi Ardath Email
Burggraff, Brittany Lee Email
Cox, Emily Helen Email
Doar, Spencer James Email
Erickson-Pearson, Katherine A Email
Gray, Marie Veronica Email
Houlihan, Joseph Arthur Email
Kirchner, Elisabeth Mary Email
Kohl, Mira Eleanor Email
Levin, Carly Michelle Email
Roso, Lauren Olivia Email
Snider, Kenneth Stephen Email
Thompson, Jake Ronald Email
Verdin, Mark Henry Email
Witzler, Ryland Patrick Email

Alexis Gunderson
Cell phone: 307-259-5795
Home phone: 696-8220

L.N. Tolstoy at the time of the writing of War and Peace, 1868.(


Library/ITS Tutorial




Format & Requirements


Texts & Resources










In 1851, a drop-out from the university, Tolstoy volunteered to serve his country in the Caucasian wars, bent on "destroying the predatory and turbulent Asiatics," as he put it in a letter. Later he studied Russia's engagement in the early 19th-century Napoleonic wars intensely, and gradually he gained fame for his polemics against imperialist wars and violence in general. But perhaps his greatest claim to fame came from his pacifist doctrine of non-resistance to evil, which has inspired people from Gandhi to Martin Luther King. Tolstoy's stint in the South launched him as a writer fiction. The Napoleonic wars yielded War and Peace, and while he was most adamantly preaching pacifism, he wrote Hadji Murad, his last literary work, in which he returned to the Caucasian wars of his youth.
Our course will focus on War and Peace and conclude with Hadji Murad. Over 1000 pages long, War and Peace has been labeled "not a novel" (Tolstoy), "real Russia" (Ivan Turgenev), a "large loose baggy monster" (Henry James), and it provided sustenance for numerous readers during the WW II 900-day siege of Leningrad (Lidia Ginzburg). We will form our own opinion based on a thorough reading of the entire text, contemporary contextual material (Tolstoy's letters, critical reactions), critical analyses of the novel (formalist, semiotic, Bakhtinian, feminist, psychoanalytical, poststructural, postcolonial), as well as interpretations in other media (Bondarchuk's film, Prokofiev's opera, comic strips).
Hadji Murad is the only Russian work Harold Bloom included in his Western Canon as "my personal touchstone for the sublime of prose fiction, to me the best story in the world." We will look at it through the lens of the theories we studied and in the context of the current Chechen war.
We will learn about the historical context of each novel, and ponder such "deep questions," such as the individual in relation to history, free will, family values, nobility versus peasantry, love, and death. These different approaches and questions will familiarize us with different ways of analyzing literary texts.
Writing will be a major part of the course, and though the professor and writing assistant can't promise to turn each student into a Tolstoy, his writing of Hadji Murad especially will inspire our own writing: Tolstoy spent over a decade writing it, he whittled it down from twice the size of War and Peace to some 100 pages, and editing took significantly more effort than plot construction.

Last updated 8/30-06