In English. No prerequisites.
In this course, we have the rare chance to spend a semester reading one great book: Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1865–69). War and Peace tells the story of Russia’s military struggles with Napoleon between 1805 and 1812, but it is also a story about friendship, seduction, love, marriage, and death; parents and children, politics and strategy, the search for one’s place in the world, and ultimately, the structure of history and time itself. As we read the novel, we will pause to explore in depth some of the big questions it raises: how history gets written; the uses of art and literature; and the problems of causality, moral responsibility, and free will. We will discuss the place of War and Peace in Tolstoy’s life and career, and also the book’s own afterlife in film and stage adaptations, from Sergei Bondarchuk’s 1960s film epic to the hit Broadway musical “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.” Through all these topics, the course combines immersion in the world of War and Peace with an investigation of how and where the novel leads us beyond its covers.
Fulfills SAS Core goal WCd.