Graduation Year

2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Humanities

Keywords

Russia, Women, Nineteenth-century, Art, Anna Karenina, Family happiness

Abstract

This work examines the perceptions of women in art and literature in Russia during the later half of the nineteenth century. It specifically focuses on the women question and examines women's function and role in Russian society and how different visual artists along with Tolstoy examine this issue through their artwork. The first section of the work focuses specifically on women's social conditions in Russia highlighting their role as daughter, wife and mother. It examines the educational system in place designed for women and the limitations placed upon women concerning marriage and family life. Along with the historical and social analysis, this section also examines three Russian artists' portrayal of various issues relating to the woman question and the role, or lack thereof, of women in society.

The second section examines Tolstoy's initial examination of women's issues through his novella "Family Happiness," and attempts to answer the question: On what side of the woman question debate is Tolstoy? It challenges the accepted,traditional reading of Tolstoy's work as misogynistic and anti-woman, and reveals through a careful reading of the text, a sympathetic female character. The last section deals with his monumental work, Anna Karenina, with a specific examination of how Tolstoy deals with the character Anna. It negates previous readings of the text by other critics who attempt to reveal Tolstoy's antagonistic behavior toward the women characters in the text. Through a careful reading of specific passages of the text, the work shows that Tolstoy also creates a sympathetic character in Anna.

This work concludes attempting to position Tolstoy on neither side of the woman question, not the case with the artists studied in the work nor other authors mentioned during this period in history, and instead reveals Tolstoy's determination to create characters and situations which are present in every society. In his approach, Tolstoy has succeeded in surpassing the boundaries of class and time and created characters and situations universal.

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