Through new readings of War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, and other novels, Kitzinger traces a productive tension between mimetic characterization and the author’s ambition to transform the reader. She shows how Tolstoy and Dostoevsky create lifelike characters and why the dream of carrying the illusion of “life” beyond the novel consistently fails. Mimetic Lives challenges the contemporary truism that novels educate us by providing enduring models for the perspectives of others, with whom we can then better empathize. Seen close, the realist novel’s power to create a world of compelling fictional persons underscores its resources as a form for thought and its limits as a direct source of spiritual, social, or political change.
Drawing on scholarship in Russian literary studies as well as the theory of the novel, Kitzinger’s lucid work of criticism will intrigue and challenge scholars working in both fields.
1. Dinner at the English Club: Character on the Margins in War and Peace
2. “A novel needs a hero...”: Dostoevsky’s Realist Character-Systems
4. The Eccentric and the Contemplator: Family Character in The Brothers Karamazov
“A profound and subtle engagement with the question of fictional character and an important, even path-breaking contribution to the theory of the novel. The book offers an incomparable vision of how Tolstoy and Dostoevsky stand, strangely, at both the Archimedean center and the outer boundary of the nineteenth-century novel—and thus of twentieth-century novel theory.” —Alex Woloch, author of The One vs. the Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel
“The core of this book’s excellence lies in the pellucid, keen, energetic, surprising, and revelatory textual readings themselves. The texts lead the theory, which responds and adapts, allowing Kitzinger to draw forth utterly new meanings and consequences form the novels we thought we knew." —Yuri Corrigan, author of Dostoevsky and the Riddle of the Self (Northwestern University Press, 2017)
"Chloë Kitzinger's Mimetic Lives significantly nuances our vocabulary for novelistic character development. Kitzinger also mounts a strong, convincing argument for novels' formal constraints as paradoxical sources of the vividness with which their characters can 'leap off the page' and take on extra-textual lives of their own." —Marta Figlerowicz, author of Flat Protagonists: A Theory of Novel Character
“Chloë Kitzinger’s book fills a gap in Erich Auerbach’s classic Mimesis, which does not include a chapter on Russian realism because, Auerbach explained, he did not know the language. Employing tools borrowed from literary theorists from Aristotle to Alex Woloch, Kitzinger provides sophisticated, exciting new readings of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Her topic is the synergies and the tensions between narrative form and the astonishing, seemingly boundless, but ultimately illusionary reality of characters in the works of these two authors.” —Donna Tussing Orwin, author of Consequences of Consciousness, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy
“The great virtue of Kitzinger’s study is to question one of the most venerable clichés associated with the Russian novel and, in particular, with Dostoevsky and Tolstoy: that their characters are so real they seem to live outside the fictional worlds of the novels. Kitzinger compellingly investigates the bases of this cliché, suggesting that the characters, despite the impression of reality they create, are ultimately very much bound to the fictional worlds that present them and limit that reality. This is an important, cogent, and well-written work that will be of interest to specialists and more general readers alike.” —Jeff Love, author of The Overcoming of History in “War and Peace”
“Why do certain fictional characters seem so real, at times more real to us than we are to ourselves? This remarkable book offers a subtle and detailed answer to the question, which involves writers and readers in a complex imaginative collaboration. Through Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, the ‘paired example at the center of this study,’ we learn how novels can both copy and elude reality, thereby pursuing the ‘ultimately impossible ambition’ of freeing characters from the worlds that made them.” —Michael Wood, author of The Habits of Distraction
An electronic version of this book is freely available, thanks to the support of libraries working with Knowledge Unlatched. KU is a collaborative initiative designed to make high-quality books open access for the public good. More information about the initiative and links to the open-access version can be found at www. knowledgeunlatched.org.
To visit the KU edition of After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems, visit https://doi.org/10.21985/n2-w8y3-zx36.