Tolstoy, Incest, and the Russian Novel

While we often think of the standard romantic plotline involving the arrival of a dashing stranger and a thrill of attraction, this talk will argue that in the nineteenth-century Russian novel, romantic love often lay much closer to home… even in the home.  Using Tolstoy’s novels as its touchstone, it will explore the pattern of characters falling in love with someone who is like a sibling—a cousin, an in-law, or a figurative adoptee or member of the household.  Often this closeness treads a fine line, raising the question: what counts as too close? While scholars have shied away from discussing the issue of incest in the nineteenth-century Russian novel, the talk will suggest that to do so directly allows us to form a clearer picture of many pressing concerns raised in these novels, getting to the heart of how the family and love are defined.

April 16, 4:15 – 5:15pm | Hollander 241


Anna BermanAnna Berman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at McGill University.  Her research focuses on the nineteenth-century Russian and English novel and issues of kinship and family.  She is the author of Siblings in Tolstoy and Dostoevsky: The Path to Universal Brotherhood (2015) and has also published articles on Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Russian opera, the relationship of science and literature, and the family novel as a genre.

* Sponsored by the Williams College Department of German and Russian, the Programs in Comparative Literature and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and the Center for Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures