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Title: The Cognitive Value of Love in Tolstoy: A Study in Aesthetics
Authors: Juharyan, Victoria
Advisors: Emerson, Caryl
Contributors: Slavic Languages and Literatures Department
Keywords: aesthetics
Bakhtin and Tolstoy
cognitive value of love
philosophy and literature
Subjects: Literature
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation traces a vital trajectory in Tolstoy’s thought – the evolution of the relationship between love and knowledge – and discusses the shifts that occur in Tolstoy’s aesthetic paradigm in response to a change in this relationship. The dynamic between love and knowledge for Tolstoy is not only a philosophical conundrum explored in the content of his works but a moral and epistemological configuration that directly affects his aesthetics: the overall form and genre of his works as well as particular narrative techniques employed in these works. As Tolstoy revises his philosophy of love, his aesthetics change accordingly. Before the crisis, trying to follow the steps of Plato in the Symposium from love of a particular person to universal love, Tolstoy repeatedly failed to arrive at the all-inclusive love [agape] he so longed for. There was always an excluded remainder. If the romanticization of the family led him to nationalism, romantic love led either to distractive passions, or, at best, to a single biological family. The family as a model even when including the neighbor in its sphere of love, could not extend to a love of humanity as a whole. Tolstoy could not be comfortable with such vicious circularity. However, he did not ‘fix’ the paradoxes. Instead, after the crisis, he reversed the direction of Plato's ‘Ladder’: we are now supposed to begin with the love of everything, which will logically imply the love of particular people as constituent parts. Even though he sees this as a state of being rather than a developmental process, late Tolstoy now fails to ‘arrive’ at a satisfying love of particular human beings, be it family members or lovers. Love individuates, singles people out based on their particular characteristics, but this would contradict Tolstoy’s new conception of subjectivity, which iv follows his new philosophy of love: that we are all the same underneath, thus can all be known and loved. This, in turn, changed which consciousnesses Tolstoy found necessary to represent: instead of depicting the consciousnesses of characters he loves in order to show their development, Tolstoy now depicts consciousnesses that fail to see his newly discovered truth and need to be taught a lesson. This dissertation moves chronologically through the corpus of Tolstoy’s work, explicating the shifting priorities he awards to cognition and to love in terms provided by Russian and European aestheticians (primarily Kant and Bakhtin) and speculating on larger questions of art and deontology through a Tolstoyan lens.
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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