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Anna Schur
Keene State College (Keene, NH 03435-0001)
Why Literature Can Reveal What Law Cannot: Leo Tolstoy and Gleb Uspensky on "The Hidden Horror of Modern Life"

Leo Tolstoy's The Kreutzer Sonata and Gleb Uspensky's sketch "One on One" (1885) focus on murderous husbands. Whereas Tolstoy's protagonist is fictional, Uspensky examines the-then sensational but now forgotten trial of Vasily Pishchikov who brutally killed his pregnant wife. Despite the different verdicts (an acquittal and a life sentence), both writers are unhappy with the legal proceedings they describe. Their critique of law, however, reverses the common argument that attributes the supremacy of literary imagination over legal reasoning to literature's commitment to human singularity. Law fails not because it deals in abstractions but because it is distracted by details; literature succeeds not due to its heightened attention to particularity of experience but due to its ability to strip this experience of the incidental and unrepeatable. The utopian politics and literary aesthetics the two works advocate depend not on highlighting but on attenuating human unrepeatability.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
Slavic Literature

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2013 – 7/31/2013