Peasant Dreams, Peasant Nightmares: On Tolstoy and Cross‐Dressing
A nobleman who proudly traced his lineage back to Riurik, Leo Tolstoy spent the greater part of his adult life dressing as a peasant. This essay asks why he did this, and explores how he used cross‐dressing in both his daily life and his fiction to destabilize easy categorizations and challenge assumptions about identity. After surveying some of the many reactions, positive and negative, to Tolstoy as a “peasant” from a variety of quarters, the essay turns to Anna Karenina. In this novel Tolstoy's utopian dream of the dissolution of the boundaries between peasant and noble finds its most complex artistic expression, and mutates into an unsettling reflection of the incursion of modernity into nineteenth‐century Russia, where questions of identity had become extraordinarily acute and fraught.
Newlin, Thomas. 2019. "Peasant Dreams, Peasant Nightmares: On Tolstoy and Cross-Dressing." Russian Review 78(4): 595-618.
Russian and East European Studies