Author: Jeff Love
Category: Literary Criticism
The Overcoming of History in “War and Peace” marks a radical departure from the critical tradition dominated by Sir Isaiah Berlin's view that the novel is deeply divided against itself, a majestically flawed contest of brilliant art and clumsy thought. To the contrary, Jeff Love argues that the apparently divided nature of the text, its multi-leveled negotiation between different kinds of representation, expresses the rich variety of the novel's very deliberate striving to capture the fluidity of change and becoming in the fixed forms of language. The inevitable failure of this striving, revealing the irreducible conflict between infinite desire and finite capacity, is at once the source of new beginnings and the repetition of old ones, a wellspring of continually renewed promises to achieve a synoptic vision of the whole that the novel cannot fulfill. This repetitive struggle between essentially comic and tragic conceptions of human action, far from being a pervasive flaw in the texture of the novel, in fact constitutes its dynamic center and principal trope as well as the productive origin of the unusual features that distinguish it as an uncommonly bold narrative experiment.