From the aesthete to the pedagogue : the Yasnaya Polyana peasant school as the experimental laboratory for Tolstoy's creative transformation
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This dissertation examines Tolstoy’s reevaluation of his creative approaches to writing through the medium of his experimental pedagogical work with the peasant children on his estate. It is argued that Tolstoy’s pedagogical interlude forms an important bridge to the writer’s fiction and should not be viewed as a digression from his development as a writer, but as an integral part of it. This project explores how the educational essays Tolstoy wrote during this period facilitate his transition from championing the aesthetic theory of “pure art” in his formative years as a writer for The Contemporary to a more mature author of War and Peace, the major masterwork that is imbued with conclusions reached during his pedagogical interlude. Tolstoy’s evolution as a writer is examined in the context of his relationship to the aesthetic ideas of the 1850’s that became a springboard for Tolstoy’s later aesthetic concepts. A comprehensive textual analysis of Tolstoy’s lesser known early works such as Notes from Lucerne and “Albert” is undertaken in order to highlight some of their important stylistic peculiarities that provide a valuable insight into the authorial presence and the nature of Tolstoy’s aesthetic rhetoric. Further, it is demonstrated how the school at Yasnaya Polyana becomes the writer’s experimental workshop, a testing ground for Tolstoy’s pedagogical theories and his creative ideas, which he checks against his students’ perception. Finally, the study is concluded by examining Tolstoy’s most encompassing work, his epic novel War and Peace through the medium of his educational writings and ideas. By locating some of the main concepts of his pedagogical philosophy in the context of this monumental masterwork, we illuminate their meaning more clearly as filtered through the prism of Tolstoy’s creative thought in order to demonstrate to what extent Tolstoy’s educational ideas informed his creative writings. It is established that all the central principles of Tolstoy’s educational thought such as his pedagogy of freedom, his ideas of aesthetic education through reading, art and music, his religious and moral education found their reflections on the pages of War and Peace and commend a great deal to a modern educator.