LIT 38 W — Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace
Course Format: Flex Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jan 16—Mar 22
Refund Deadline: Jan 19
Instructor(s): Natalya Sukhonos
Class Recording Available: Yes
Described as a “loose baggy monster” by Henry James, Tolstoy’s War and Peace is one of the most ambitious historical novels in world literature. Though set during the Napoleonic wars in Russia, War and Peace poses questions that are nonetheless undeniably modern: What is the role of individual agency in the whirlpool of historical drama? Is it possible to cross class lines to create real, long-lasting social change? War and Peace explores historical conflict from the perspectives of its diverse array of characters—servants and counts, misers and dreamers—whose voices break with the conventions of 19th-century realism through Tolstoy’s forays into stream of consciousness and defamiliarization. But the novel is not just a historical drama or a literary experiment. It is a delicate glimpse of the intimate life of Russia’s salons, drawing rooms, and servant quarters; of their whispers, fears, and worries. Its characters are richly layered and contradictory; their revelations and conquests are earnest but do not last. One of the great joys of War and Peace is getting lost in the characters’ debates and getting used to the cadences of their voices. Students will read the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation and will find that reading War and Peace is like hopping into a Russian troika for the literary joyride of a lifetime.
Natalya Sukhonos has a PhD in comparative literature from Harvard, and her area of research is 20th-century Russian and Latin American literature. Bilingual in Russian and English, she has taught literature, humanities, and writing at Harvard, Stanford, UC Davis, and Zayed University. She is currently teaching creative writing at SUNY Albany. She is the co-founder of Personal Professors, a company that aims to provide flexible lifelong learning in the humanities taught by qualified educators. She also is the founder of the Art Salon Series, an ongoing cultural event throughout New York that creates interdisciplinary conversations in the realms of art, politics, social impact, healthcare, the environment, and beyond. Her latest book is A Stranger Home.
Lecturer in Creative Writing, SUNY Albany
Textbooks for this course:
(Required) Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace: Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Vintage Classics) (ISBN 978-1400079988)