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Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher… all is vanity.
Ecclesiastes 1:2

Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy (1828-1910) strove to find the meaning of human existence in the day-to-day cycles of life, seeking the underlying truth that he knew must be there, but, all the while, the knowledge that “all is vanity” tugged at his conscience. In this course we will acknowledge the greatness of  Tolstoy’s achievement — the creation of entire universes, his uncanny ability to enter our minds and know us, to project his imagination with overwhelming force — and discuss his ideas: the myth of system, the myth of greatness, the myth of wisdom, the blessedness of self-oblivion, the mystery of birth and death, the nature of true communication. And yet our main task will be to examine the details of his texts and discover how he does it. What are the methods Tolstoy uses to convey these ideas so effectively? What are the homiletic techniques of this preacher, this unrivaled nineteenth-century Ecclesiast?

“The goal of the artist is not to solve a question irrefutably, but to force people to love life in all its innumerable, inexhaustible manifestations… If I were told that what I shall write will be read in twenty years by the children of today and that they will weep and smile over it and will fall in love with life, I would devote all my life and all my strength to it” (Tolstoy, 1865).

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  Portrait of Tolstoy

Created By: Suh-Mii Yi '08 and Sarah Coutlee '07
Maintained By: Tom Hodge
Last Modified: November 16, 2010