Cover image for Tolstoy's Phoenix : from method to meaning in War and Peace
Tolstoy's Phoenix : from method to meaning in War and Peace
Clay, George R.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Evanston, Ill. : Northwestern University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
x, 142 pages ; 24 cm.

Format :


Call Number
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Home Location
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PG3365.V65 C57 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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By examining Tolstoy's techniques and analyzing the structure of War and Peace, essayist George R. Clay offers a fresh perspective and jargon-free analysis of one of the world's greatest novels. Beginning with Tolstoy's strategies, devices, and structural elements, Clay moves beyond previous approaches and reveals the novel's larger thematic concerns, showing how all the pieces fit into an overall pattern that he calls the phoenix design.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

"Outsiders" sometimes uncover truths that have escaped the notice of "insiders." Clay (Univ. of California, Davis) is a case in point. A nonacademic who evidently knows no Russian, he has dared trespass on the preserves of such eminent Tolstoy scholars as Berlin, Wasiolek, Christian, Gustafson, and Morson--and he comes up with fresh and important things to say. Specifically, taking (polite) issue with Berlin--who denied War and Peace a central, unifying vision--Clay notes in the novel a life-death-resurrection cycle, which, in various modes and forms, pulsates throughout the work. More: subtending this "phoenix" pattern of motifs are two subordinate moral dichotomies, spontaneity (good)/compulsion (bad) and ethical dogmatism (bad) and a holistic capacity to recognize the interdependence of right and wrong (good). Clay argues that the ability of the five great "protagonists" to come to terms with these values is a measure of their wisdom and viability. Clearly written, free of jargon, and replete with illuminating examples, this volume is--in this age of obfuscating deconstruction and increasingly narrow compartmentalization--that rare thing: literary criticism that can be enthusiastically recommended to the tyro and the specialist alike. For all libraries. R. Gregg emeritus, Vassar College