Reading Leo Tolstoy in the Digital Age

Mixed graduate and undergraduate course, Stanford University, Slavic Literatures and Languages, 2017

How did Tolstoy’s realist prose fiction gave birth to such modernist conceptions of art? What can we learn from Tolstoy’s aesthetics today? How can we read Tolstoy’s prose fiction by means of digital humanities methods? This course is arranged as a series of digital labs and seminar discussions and utilizes a project-based learning approach.

Course Goals

The course is designed as a project-based exploration of Tolstoy’s texts with the tools of computational and DH methods. Students will use literary and historical interpretive models as ways to understand the data they generate from Tolstoy’s texts. Strategies such as text mining, network analysis, and sentiment analysis are becoming fundamental to research in the humanities. Equally important, however, is the recognition of the limits of these methods and the need to integrate them within a holistic approach to humanities inquiry. These tools and methods will enable us to examine Leo Tolstoy’s late texts with a twofold goal in mind: to interpret the fictional world as an intersection of the social, political and aesthetic discourses and to create close-reading methods of textual analysis with DH tools. By bringing digital and computational tools to literary analysis, we can generate new research questions and answer old questions in new ways.