R106 | Anna Karenina and the Meaning of Life |
Julie Cassiday

Thursdays 4:00 - 5:30 p.m.  | Five Sessions - 4/4, 4/18, 4/25, 5/2, 5/9
In-person at Williams College
Limit: 50

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina regularly appears on critics’ lists of “best book ever written” for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the directness with which Tolstoy takes on life’s most pressing questions. Why are some families happy, while others encounter misery on misery? What work must we all do to give our lives meaning? And most pressing of all, what do our lives mean, given that we all, sooner or later, die? This course will explore how Tolstoy invested his take on the nineteenth-century novel of adultery with his own answers to life’s accursed questions, as well as what the great Russian author believed our lives ultimately mean.

Julie Cassiday has taught Russian language, literature, and culture, as well as comparative literature, at Williams College for the past thirty years. Her research focuses on performance, in the broadest sense of this word, in Russian culture She has published a wide variety of scholarly articles on topics ranging from Stalinist film to the so-called cult of personality surrounding Vladimir Putin. In 2023, she published her second book, which examines gender and sexuality in post-Soviet popular culture, Russian Style: Performing Gender, Power, and Putinism, with the University of Wisconsin Press. 

Suggested Reading:

Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina, trans. by Marian Schwartz, Margellos World Republic of Letters, ISBN 978-0-30020394-3. Available in hardback and paperback on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Karenina-Margellos-World-Republic-Letters/dp/0300216823/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= . While I recommend Schwartz’s translation, students are free to use whatever translation of Anna Karenina they already have or find convenient.


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