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On the one hand, War and Peace contains statements that read as "absolute" or universalizing claims; these appear often in structures like that of the syllogism. This aspect of Tolstoy's style has earned the title of "scriptural." On the other hand, however, Tolstoy's universalizing language is continually undermined through his equally persistent "subjective" language, which confuses and threatens all "absolute" claims. I'm interested in the possible failure of the Tolstoyan "absolute," and the potential which the other "subjective" or "limited" authorial mode might offer. Through a number of "revelatory" experiences, I explore the division and imbalance of these two modes, and the other possibilities which emerge when the "absolute" no longer functions as it should.
The paper is divided into three chapters, each focused on major characters within “War and Peace”: Pierre, illegitimate son; Andrei Bolkonski, the ambitious Prince turned nihilist; and Natasha, the unifier of both Pierre and Andrei and the embodiment of experience. By mapping out various experiences of Pierre, Andrei, and Natasha, the paper attempts a case for pluralism, and the perhaps unlivable potentials of secular “monism” within Tolstoy’s most monumental work of narrative fiction. The possible resolution within the paper hopes to elaborate on an understanding of the book, not through the singular, but through the plural and unfinished experience.
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Scanlon, Sophia Melora, "Limited Absolutes: A Study of "War and Peace" and the Pluralizing Experience" (2018). Senior Projects Spring 2018. 208.
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