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Tolstoy and Technology

Fri, November 10, 8:00 to 9:45am, Marriott Downtown Chicago, Floor: 6th, Wisconsin

Session Submission Type: Panel

Brief Description

Tolstoy often resisted and disparaged technology as dehumanizing, coercive, and reductive. Yet at the same time he was on some level fascinated—even seduced—by it. His fiction from War and Peace on is full of machine metaphors and imagery, and over the course of his life he tinkered with various small-scale technologies (cameras, dictaphones, etc.) in private. Drawing on his literary and non-literary works, as well as the rich biographical record about Tolstoy, two of the presenters (Newlin, Pavlenko) will probe his ambivalent and sometimes perverse responses to the machine age at different phases of his life. While these papers focus primarily on what Tolstoy tells us about technology, Godwin-Jones and McFadden's contribution will offer up an example of what technology tells us about Tolstoy. By illuminating Tolstoy's engagement with technology and technology's engagement with Tolstoy, we hope to open up a broader conversation about the many ways in which Tolstoy's ideas and contradictions resonate with our hyper-technologized, twenty-first century selves.

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