Creating and Recovering Experience: Repetition in Tolstoy

Creating and Recovering Experience: Repetition in Tolstoy

Creating and Recovering Experience: Repetition in Tolstoy

Creating and Recovering Experience: Repetition in Tolstoy

Synopsis

The thesis of this book is that repetition is central to Tolstoy's art. The author argues that Tolstoy uses this device to represent and examine the processes by which people structure and give meaning to their experience.

Excerpt

When one does not possess the categories of recollection or of repetition, the whole of life is resolved into a void and empty noise.

--Kierkegaard Constantine Constantius, Repetition: An Essay in Philosophy

Endless repetition threatens sanity. --Saul Bellow's Herzog, Herzog

Repetition occurs in both time and space and marks human experience of these categories by establishing patterns and symmetries. By nature paradoxical and ubiquitous, repetition in culture can imply sameness and difference, continuity and discontinuity, change and stasis, meaning and disruption of meaning, parts and wholes. But wherever and however it manifests itself, repetition can be both a communicative and a cognitive strategy. As such it is a key technique in belles lettres. Repetition as a literary device, that is, the intentional and purposeful use of repeated elements in narratives and descriptions, can take many different forms and serve various functions according to the author's intentions within a particular genre or tradition. All writers rely on repetition to a greater or lesser extent, because it is fundamental to the creation of similitude and therefore of meaning, especially in belles lettres.

Repetition of key elements of character, plot, and theme is certainly one of the most obvious devices in Tolstoy's prose. Critics in Tolstoy's time tended to decry his unconventional . . .

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