PO Box 400783
Halsey Annex C
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4783
19th-century Russian literature, Tolstoy, 18th-century Russian literature, medieval Russian literature, literary theory, language pedagogy.
My current project is a re-reading of Tolstoy, tentatively titled Tolstoy and the Imperfections of Fiction. I am interested in the ethics of fiction, and argue that Tolstoy's narratives embrace a series of highest virtues (innocence, naturalness, sincerity, non-theatricality, silence, and others) that they simultaneously violate even though they try not to. In a typical example, Tolstoy's stories repeatedly rail against adultery, yet also demonstrate that the act of reading and the act of writing are, in a crucial sense, adulterous. How then to effectively resist adulterous thinking? How to alert the world to the dangers if not through writing? Ultimately Tolstoy compiles for us a series of objections to what might be called "the mind of literature," the complex of mental operations fiction must perform to exist, and in its place proposes an antithetical mode of being in the world, ethically preferable and resistant to the conditions of modern subjectivity, that would render literature and the ways it thinks impossible or superfluous - but that ought not need in theory to be communicated about. Work on the book has been supported by an NEH Fellowship.