Anna Karenina and Others
Tolstoy’s Labyrinth of Plots
Reveals why the whole of Anna Karenina is greater than the sum of its plots
With its complex structure, Anna Karenina places special demands on readers who must follow multiple plotlines and discern their hidden linkages. In her well-conceived and jargon-free analysis, Liza Knapp offers a fresh approach to understanding how the novel is constructed, how it creates patterns of meaning, and why it is much more than Tolstoy’s version of an adultery story.
Knapp provides a series of readings of Anna Karenina that draw on other works that were critical to Tolstoy’s understanding of the interconnectedness of human lives. Among the texts she considers are The Scarlet Letter, a novel of adultery with a divided plot; Middlemarch, a multiplot novel with neighborly love as its ideal; and Blaise Pascal’s Pensées, which fascinated Tolstoy during his own religious crisis. She concludes with a tour-de-force reading of Mrs. Dalloway that shows Virginia Woolf constructing this novel in response to Tolstoy’s treatment of Anna Karenina and others.
Liza Knapp is an associate professor in the Department of Slavic Languages at Columbia University. She is the author of The Annihilation of Inertia: Dostoevsky and Metaphysics, the editor of Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot”: A Critical Companion, and the coeditor of Approaches to Teaching Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.”
“Makes an invaluable contribution to Tolstoy studies and the theory of the novel. Knapp’s comparative readings highlight biographical, philosophical, religious, and literary roots of the ‘hidden labyrinth of linkages’ that connect the two plots of Anna Karenina.”
—Elizabeth Cheresh Allen, Bryn Mawr College
“Knapp’s keen eye for prodding out books that play off one another illuminates not only the multiplot novel in its various guises, but the adultery novel as Tolstoy reinvented it, where sexual transgression is forced to serve the quest for God and faith. A mind-expanding book.”
—Caryl Emerson, Princeton University
LC: 2015038425 PG
336 pp. 6 x 9