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In this talk, Professor Ani Kokobobo will connect Tolstoy’s ideas about gender and sexuality, as reflected in The Kreutzer Sonata, with the main idea born out of his religious conversion: pacifism. For Tolstoy, sexuality came to signify another form of violence, and peaceful living required complete abstinence. Influenced by pacifist thinkers like the Americans William Lloyd Garrison and Adin Ballou, who also embraced feminism, Tolstoy sought a new world order beyond sexuality, defined by peaceful relations between individuals. In contextualizing this new world order, she brings Tolstoy in dialogue with several queer theorists, who imagine relationship patterns outside the heterosexual marriage with its emphasis on individuality, children, and material success. Queer theorists prioritize the death drive, anti-generationality and anti-familial kinships, as well as what Jack Halberstam calls “queer temporality” – or a break with linear and teleological history and ideas of success for the sake of queer collectivity. She considers queer collectivities alongside the spiritual collectivity envisioned by Tolstoy.
Ani Kokobobo is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Kansas. She also edits the Tolstoy Studies Journal. She is currently working on two books, a longer book on Tolstoy and sexuality, and a shorter, public-facing book on the Tolstoy marriage. She has published over twenty academic articles, a monograph (Russian Grotesque Realism: The Great Reforms and the Gentry Decline, Ohio State UP, 2018), and two edited volumes. Her shorter writings for the public have appeared with The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon.com, and other venues.