Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina


Leo Tolstoy

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Anna Karenina: Part 7, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

At the concert, a new fantasia called “King Lear on the Heath” is performed, and Levin wants to form his own opinion of it, but as he listens, he feels like he’s listening to a madman: there are whirling fragments of so many emotions that he is completely perplexed, as though he is a deaf man watching people dance. He argues with an acquaintance about Wagnerian music: Levin thinks that Wagner’s mistake is trying to use music to express all of art and that different forms are best for describing certain things. The acquaintance disagrees, saying that it reaches its apex by uniting its forms. Levin sees a friend, whom, he remembers guiltily, Kitty had wanted him to visit.
Wagnerian music, with its atonalities and its extremely expressive nature, is becoming popular in Russia at this time. Tolstoy uses Levin’s supposedly naïve, unbiased opinion about Wagnerian music to express Tolstoy’s own point of view: each art form––like each person––should do what it is built to do and what it functions best at, not strive for some master unification of all the arts (for example, poetry shouldn’t describe a face, because that’s what painting does best). Tolstoy wrote a book on art (What Is Art?) that expresses these views more fully. Tolstoy is likely also uncomfortable with the way that Russians have elevated non-Russian art (Wagner was German),
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