Tolstoy’s gripping story of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in War and Peace earned lasting fame for its panoramic scope, philosophical ambition, and realistic depiction of human aspiration and failure. By turning his country’s recent past into fiction, Tolstoy hoped to answer the burning questions of nineteenth-century history: Why do men go to war? What qualities make one man a charismatic leader and another, a feeble figurehead? Can the individual change the course of history? And do our actions spring from our own free will or are they predetermined by divine providence? In this course, our reading and discussion of War and Peace will focus on the philosophical and historical questions that Tolstoy addressed but ultimately failed to answer, as well as his defiant reworking of the genre of the historical novel.

Note that classroom venue is located in the Williams College Bookstore


Julie Cassiday is the Willcox B. and Harriet M. Adsit Professor of Russian at Williams College. Career highlights include: President, Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies; Chair, Department of German & Russian, Williams College; Nelson Bushnell ’20 Prize for writing and teaching, Division I, Williams College; Summer Stipend, National Endowment for the Humanities; Gaudino Scholar, Williams College.


Suggested reading
: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Vintage Classics, 
2007). Class #1: Please read Vol. I, Parts 1 & 2, pp. 3-200. Reading sections for the remaining classes will be noted on the syllabus handout.




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