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The subversive potential of Leo Tolstoy’s ‘defamiliarisation’: a case study in drawing on the imagination to denounce violence

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journal contribution
posted on 13.06.2017 by Alexandre Christoyannopoulos
In his later years, Leo Tolstoy wrote numerous books, essays and pamphlets expounding his newly-articulated denunciations of all political violence, whether by dissidents or ostensibly legitimate states. If these writings have inspired many later pacifists and anarchists, it is partly thanks to his masterful deployment of the literary technique of ‘defamiliarisation’ – or looking at the familiar as if new – to shake readers into recognising the absurdity of common justifications of violence, admitting their implicit complicity in it, and noticing the process which numbed them into accepting such complicity. This paper discusses Tolstoy’s use of the imagination to defamiliarise and denounce violence, first by citing a number of typical examples, then by reflecting on four of its subversive characteristics: its disruption of automated perception, its implicit concession of some recognition, its corrosion of conventional respect for traditional hierarchies, and its encouragement of empathy.

History

School

  • Social Sciences

Department

  • Politics and International Studies

Published in

Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy

Citation

CHRISTOYANNOPOULOS, A.J.E., 2019. The subversive potential of Leo Tolstoy’s ‘defamiliarisation’: a case study in drawing on the imagination to denounce violence. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 22 (5), pp.562-580.

Publisher

© Taylor & Francis (Routledge)

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy on 11 January 2019, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/13698230.2019.1565700.

Acceptance date

30/05/2017

Publication date

2019-01-11

ISSN

1369-8230

eISSN

1743-8772

Language

en

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