Russian Language Journal


Anna Karenina, methodology, literature, reader


Limits to Interpretation is a staple of Tolstoy scholarship. Newly reprinted in paperback, it is worth revisiting, even for those already familiar with this work. Alexandrov’s aim in the book, outlined on the first page, is to “propose a text-specific reading methodology, one that is tailored as much as possible to a particular work, and that is thus designed to minimize the circularity of interpretation, or the process of mediation, inherent in any act of reading” (3). Alexandrov seeks to demonstrate how a work of literature can prompt a fixed range of contradictory and divergent interpretations simultaneously. He wants to demonstrate this “mapping out” of the relations among the plausible meanings, while also showing there are limits to interpretation and that some meanings will fall outside this realm of plausibility. Although the largest portion of the book covers his reading of Anna Karenina, the opening section addresses his methodology.