Tolstoy's Family Prototypes in War and Peace. Brett Cooke.

Tolstoy's Family Prototypes in War and Peace

Academic Studies Press, 2020.

New Book.

Item #6015
ISBN: 9781644694084

Hardcover. 318 pages.

Did affection for members of his family influence Tolstoy's characterizations in War and Peace? Comparison of the novel with the writer's family history reveals preferential treatment of those with greater relatedness to him-excluding his autoportraits. It also explains many narrative gaps and curious devices, including coincidences, "fate," and incest.

"Tolstoy's Family Prototypes in 'War and Peace' is a work of painstaking research and exciting interdisciplinary horizons. In it Brett Cooke pores over the novel's voluminous plans, drafts, and finished product to show how, in transforming real-life prototypes into major characters, the great realist creatively distorts the originals in a 'positive' or 'negative' direction, depending on the internalized pressures of kin selection/inclusive fitness. The idea of family that Tolstoy so brings to life in beloved characters like Natasha and Pierre, Mary and Nicholas, works as powerfully as it does because their trajectories toward something are, evolutionarily speaking, significant. For example, Mary and Nicholas, whose prototypes were Tolstoy's own parents, improve on their journey into print because two things are happening simultaneously: they are genetically very close (50%) to the son who is fictionalizing their stories and their own sacrifices ('kin altruism') vis-à-vis their offspring, however idealized in the process of artistic execution, come across as what is most endearing and "alive" about them, especially considering the fact that their premature deaths will orphan Tolstoy at a young age. The framework of kin selection is not presented as something inevitably predictive or deterministic, but rather as an additional, yet important factor in Tolstoy's artistic rendering of the different families. This is a work of daring, yet responsible speculation as well as a major contribution to Tolstoy studies."

--David M. Bethea, Vilas Research Professor (emeritus), University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Price: $119.00

See all items in About Russian Literature
See all items by