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Title: Siblings: The Path to Universal Brotherhood in Tolstoy and Dostoevsky
Authors: Berman, Anna Aries
Advisors: Emerson, Caryl
Contributors: Slavic Languages and Literatures Department
Keywords: Brothers
Subjects: Literature
Slavic literature
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Studies of the family in Russian literature tend to focus on marriage and women, or on the conflict of generations and failures of the patriarchal order. Little attention is paid to lateral, consanguineal sibling bonds. By applying a "sibling lens" to Tolstoy and Dostoevsky's fiction, this dissertation proposes a new way of understanding the role of family in their works. Because the two viewed sibling relations as non-sexual, non-hierarchical, close to the self (belonging to the Russian concept of "one's own" [<italic>svoi</italic>]), and unchosen, siblinghood became the basis for their philosophies of ideal human connection. Both Tolstoy and Dostoevsky distrusted the passion of romantic love, and in their early works they use sibling love and intimacy as an alternative or counterbalance to erotic desire. For Tolstoy, brother-sister relations are the model for happy marriages (<italic>War and Peace</italic>). For Dostoevsky, the sibling is a stabilizing figure within his early love triangles ("White Nights," <italic>Insulted and Injured</italic>). As their thought developed, both authors sought ways to expand the potential of the sibling bond into the larger social world. The dissertation traces an arc from Tolstoy and Dostoevsky's early depictions of individual sibling relationships, through their attempts to expand siblinghood beyond the immediate family, and ultimately to their visions of universal brotherhood in their late novels. Literal siblings and then metaphorical siblings provide their link between the immediate, concrete reality of "loving one's neighbor" and the abstract, spiritual concept of everything as part of God (Tolstoy) or all people united in the brotherhood of Christ (Dostoevsky). I argue that Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are exceptional in forging this bond between depictions of literal siblings and the ideal of brotherhood. The dissertation concludes by contrasting their treatment of siblings with the way siblings function in English novels of the period, where their significance remains rooted in the material reality of everyday life. In uncovering Tolstoy and Dostoevsky's use of siblinghood to move uninterruptedly from concrete instances of love between individuals to the broader spiritual ideal of brotherhood, the dissertation offers a new understanding of the role of family and religion in their literature.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Slavic Languages and Literatures

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