The Slavonic Question and the Dismembered Adulteress

Tatiana Kuzmic, University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign

Anna Karenina’s treatment of the adulterous woman is interwoven with historical events of the 1870s regarding the question of ethnically and socio-economically ‘adulterated’ political subjects. The novel, in consequence, addresses pressing political questions of the times by pairing the classic Realist adulteress with a lover of dubious origins and dismembering them. Anna’s dismemberment begins, symbolically, together with her affair, as she suffers nightmares of both men being her husbands simultaneously; during her post-birth delirium state she splits herself in two as she attempts to convince her slighted husband that another woman inside her fell in love with the other man; and, finally, as if forcing into material manifestation her mental anguish, she dismembers herself by her famous suicide under the train. A couple of months later, her grieving lover joins the Volunteer movement to help Serbia fight Turkish occupation and, while pacing up and down the bustling train station, remembers her “mangled body.” This paper aims to read Tolstoy’s depiction of the end of an unglamorous love affair as a projection of patriarchal and nationalistic anxieties onto the adulterous woman’s body and to examine the “mangled” body of the adulteress within the historical framework of the “mangled” Balkans and Russia’s involvement in the so-called Slavonic question.