In English. No prerequisites.

What do I believe in? What is art? What, then, must we do? Each of these driving questions is also the title of a work by Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), author of the great novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina. A novelist who denied the value of high art, an army officer who became a radical pacifist, a nobleman who strove to free himself of wealth and privilege, and a Christian who wrote his own version of the Gospels – throughout his long life, Tolstoy fought like few others to define and realize his evolving vision of the place and purpose of human life. This course invites you to respond actively to Tolstoy’s vision at a time of change, uncertainty, and upheaval in our contemporary world – when big questions about the nature of community, conservation, social justice and the good confront each one of us daily. 

In the first half of the semester, we will read some of Tolstoy’s early fiction and his masterpiece Anna Karenina (1875-77). In the second half, we will explore his late short stories and globally influential essays on religion, vegetarianism, capital punishment, inequality, education, and non-violence (among other topics). As part of this exploration, you will be asked to participate in a community engagement project that meets your interests, and to reflect on that experience in direct conversation with Tolstoy’s works. In English. No prerequisites. Fulfills SAS Core goals AH o, p, and WCd.