The Emotional and Esthetic Synchronization in the Russian Classics' Literature Reality

Research article
Issue: № 3 (129), 2023


The present paper is an attempt to review the literary relevance of selected works of Tolstoy, taking into account such sensations as olfaction, taste, touch, going beyond the visual-auditory framework and carrying simultaneously somatic memories, which we retain sensually, corporeally, and which make us more susceptible to impressions of the external world. Taking into account the problem posed in this way, it seems quite natural to investigate images of physical moments (bodily memory representations signaling psychological ones, so to speak), and to decode mute gazes and involuntary gestures, revealing their secret and largely not yet realized impulses. The sensory experiences presented, which go beyond the visual and auditory, as well as containing somatic memories, mark important moments in the literary world of the great novelist. They reveal additional contexts and deeper meanings when re-reading his texts. It seems that the literary-cultural appeal to sensory experience is a fascinating and fruitful research perspective, allowing us to understand the process of connecting all the senses in the perception of the author's artistic world.

1. Introduction

The attempt to unravel the essence of human feelings (emotional and aesthetic signification) justifies the need to focus on some of the ideological and artistic components of Tolstoy's monologue with all the discursive doubts that expand the conceptual issue concerning the perception in Tolstoy's works.

From the sensory perspective, the proposed article is an attempt to analyze artistic reality, taking into account perceptions such as smell, taste, and touch that go beyond the visual-auditive frame and simultaneously convey somatic memories that make us more sensitive towards the outside world's impressions.

Considering the problem outlined, it appears quite appropriate to analyze representations of physical moments and to decode involuntary glances and gestures, disclosing their hidden impulses, which are left unrecognized to a certain extent.

2. Research methods and principles

While considering the entire sensual palette in literary works, we would like to focus on the tactile, then highlight the role of the visual and auditory codes and their contamination, as well as to mention the importance of taste, smell, and the non-verbal means by which perceptions (gestures, facial expressions, posture) are conveyed.

As a source of both inspiration and research concepts mentioned above, the works of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Gaston Bachelard, Mikhail Bakhtin, Gilles Deleuze, Michael Epstein, Nina Mednis, and others have been a tremendous asset in their philosophical and haptic phenomenological and semiotic interpretations concerning the body and sensory perception

. For many researchers, touch was the primary sensory experience, and from it all others later "branched off," touch being the essential form of our interaction with the real world. Therefore, if this is true, haptics and tactile contact are the decisive factors determining the world's structure

Placing tactile experience on the last place in the list of senses (after visual, auditory, olfactory, and gustatory) is, on the one hand, unfair; on the other hand, it validates the fact that tactile is the most habitual of all senses, so it is the least distinguished, the most articulated. We can close our eyes, ears, cover our nose, keep our mouths shut, but we are unable to peel off our skin. Precisely because of the habitude of tactile touch, we neglect it the most when it comes to the sensory theory. The preference is given to those senses that presuppose the remoteness of the human being from the perceptual object and the opportunity or the necessity of their signification. All the sign systems within which the Western idea of reasonableness and spirituality developed and, above all speech

, language are linked entirely to visual and auditory perception. The alienation of the visual and auditory organs away from the perceptual objects results in a substitution and reference field between them, in which signs emerge visible particles or sound wavelengths of matter that serve to represent absent, "ideal" objects ideas, notions, meanings. Precisely through vision and auditory, the realm of the ideal develops, which proclaims its sensory hierarchy in which vision and auditory are naturally placed on the upper levels, as the most "reliable servants" of the ideal and its intermediaries in connecting with the material world. Olfaction the remote perception experiences its object through the diffusion of its particles through the air, and in this respect it is partially akin to the auditory one. Tactile, representing its object directly by touch, is the most tangible sense, along with gustatory senses

Nevertheless, we are more inclined towards the opinion that in the literary dimension of "Resurrection" (based on the fundamental principles of Tolstoy's anthropology, man is "the Whole" and part of "the Whole", Man is seen as a possibility, the endless possibility) one can find diverse blends of sensory perception, i.e. the sensory comprehension of the literary work will traverse through all the senses, conjugating them (vertically coupling with "the Whole" and horizontally by the breadth of the universe)


3. Main results

Tactile experience is always a reciprocal act, a being on the border that divides and simultaneously connects the people, and that, by the nature of its boundary, cannot belong to only one of them. However, to recreate an analogous situation in the visual world, it is necessary to assume that two people look directly into each other's eyes. "By looking deeply into the eyes of the other, it allows a deeper insight into my own eyes, seeing itself becomes visible"

. (What in the visual world happens from time to time, from occasion to occasion, in the tactile world is the rule: the tactile is the tangible). As a writer, Tolstoy also perceives the world visually as an artist; his writing is not merely a testimony, but an analysis of the most delicate sensations: "... I stopped seeing the surroundings, then his face disappeared in front of me, only his eyes seemed to shine, it seemed, against my very eyes, then it seemed to me that these eyes were in me, everything was clouded, I did not see anything and had to close my eyes, to break away from the feeling of pleasure and fear that this look produced in me ..."

Only a soul penetrating gaze can have such an impact on the other; the character, through looking into himself, stares into the eyes of the other, his ego, becoming realization in the other, and forgets about himself. These three full stops at the end of the sentence disrupt the heroine's momentum, since it is not necessary to say everything; some things must be left for the reader to guess.

Compared to the other senses, Tolstoy was conscious of the fact that tactile experience provides the fullest and richest experience. Moreover, considering that tactile experience delineates the inviolable, signalling where one's own ends and the stranger begins, identifying to the stranger where one's own ends and the self begins. Thus, the pain felt by the body from an unnecessary, unwanted intrusion caused by something else (a prick, a blow, a push) is primarily felt by the skin (hence the proverb "to experience it on one's own skin")

. According to what philosophers have written about "self" and "non-self" as the core concepts, it is in the touch, in the skin as the tactile dimension of the self and the non-self, that the difference is initially felt and distinguished. Above-mentioned consonant discourse with the concept of "The Whole" which is defined as the key to Tolstoy's anthropological cognition, which is inseparably connected with the problem of man (for man is paired with "The Whole") a dual feeling of oneself as both "The Whole" and as discrete part of "The Whole", which in turn, implies the continuous motion in which man finds himself, the core being the expanded consciousness, which the great novelist interprets as overcoming the gap from "I" to "not-I"
. Referring to the literary context of Anna Karenina, one can trace how an encounter with another person (a touching) triggers the hero's going beyond himself, who tries to become superior (overcoming his "Ego"), so that Karenin feels the blessings of forgiveness with regard to his wife and shows generosity to Vronsky. During the scene of Anna's maternity fever, Aleksey Aleksandrovich offers his hand to his opponent, disclosing his feeling to him and appears ready for the transition (this may not be an outgrowth in Levin's context, but it is undoubtedly the germ): "he [Karenin] suddenly felt that what he considered a mental disorder was, on the contrary, a blissful state of mind that suddenly gave him a new, never experienced happiness. He did not think that the Christian law, which he wanted to follow all his life, ordered him to forgive and love his enemies; but a joyful feeling of love and forgiveness for enemies filled his soul. He was on his knees and, resting his head on the crook of her arm, which burned him with fire through his jacket, sobbed like a child. She hugged his balding head, moved towards him, and lifted her eyes with defiant pride"

The Christian urge made it both possible to ignore jealousy and to transcend ego, although according to some researchers it was all done to acquire its lustful orderliness

, but it does not negate its sincerity and truthfulness and reveals its scope, its proportionality in the "maze of couplings", which was especially important for Tolstoy.

The visual code in the "Anna Karenina" novel is frequently contaminated with the auditory code, for example, "the translucent hoof sound," "the horse rattled on the ground [...] thrashing, saddle flapping wings"

. It can be assumed that to amplify the image perception, to transfer the tremendous growing tension, an appropriate angle is chosen by the writer from the horse saddle, which surely creates a certain rhythm, the reader practically hears the rhythm of the horse's feet, and clearly feels the incandescent horse body "starting to darken with sweat", "[...] perspiration was trickling out on his scruff, on his head, on his sharp ears, and he was breathing sharply and briefly," and thus we perceive the (reciprocal) sensations of the tactile and the tangible: "he noticed the indecision in the horse's ears and raised the whip, but immediately felt that the doubt was unfounded: the horse knew what was needed. She pushed and measured, just as he expected, soared and, pushing off the ground, gave herself up to the force of inertia ..."

Sophisticated semantic allusions are skillfully "concealed" in the scene observed, simultaneously linking both physical sensations (moments) with psychological ones. The Krasnoselsky races were a "violent spectacle", which reminded one of the Roman circuses set up for the entertainment. Leo Tolstoy was certain that the "'entire system of life' would change, that this civilization ... is on its way to its decadence, just as another ancient civilization

," he said. The distinctive symbolism of the Roman Empire decadence also refers to the deep moral decline of the traditional family values personified in the dead Frou-Frou (i.e. the English thoroughbred racehorse of Alexei Vronsky, one of the main characters in Leo Tolstoy's novel "Anna Karenina"). At the same time, the dynamics and the suspense of the galloping race heralds Anna's inevitable explanation by her husband, and the death of her beloved horse her impending fatal dénouement in the fate of the protagonist.

Nevertheless, Tolstoy includes such sensations as olfactory and gustatory, as they represent the somatic memories that are preserved sensuously and physically. The preceding scene, when Nikolai Rostov, after returning from the war, finds himself in the midst of a Christmas celebration, illustrates the above: he disguises himself in women's clothes, while Sonya is a hussar. The girl drew herself a mustache with burnt cork. "When they touched each other's lips, Nikolai kissed the lips, atop which there was a mustache and which smelled of burned cork. He recalled for a long time that smell of the cork, mixed with the sensation of the kiss"


The transfiguration and changing of the masks has a symbolic function: it could be considered inadequate communication, predicting the future. Nikolai does not marry Sonya because subconsciously he senses the masculine and pheromonal signals emanating from her. Here we encounter a special phenomenon, an empiricism arises, moreover, at the level of the conscious threshold, which in the end decides their fates while remaining unconscious

. In choosing the opposite sex, fragrances and aromas have a crucial role, not only in the plant and animal worlds. "Она пустоцвет, знаешь, как на клубнике"
Our heart chooses a partner, however, the motivation is on an almost instinctive level. Whereas the trouble of our mind is that it is very rational, the trouble of our heart is that it is erratic.

Referring to the scene of Koznyshev's thwarted matchmaking in Anna Karenina, who goes to the woods with Varenka to pick mushrooms and, rather than ask the girl for her hand as he had planned, is driven by some unexpected idea, and suddenly asks: "'What's the difference between white and birch? Varenka's lips trembled with excitement as she answered, "There is no difference in the cap, but in the root"

. A girl's response can also be interpreted metaphorically.

"And as soon as these words were spoken, both he and she realized that the affair was over, the thing that was to be said would not be said, and the anxiety of them, which had reached the highest degree before these words, began to fade away"


Apparently, this is the situation Tolstoy had alluded too, comparing Varenka to "a scentless flower. However, the odor is the soul of the flower. Not accidentally, the author defined Varenka with this sensuous (affective) connotation: "She was like a beautiful, though still full of petals, but already blossomed, a scentless flower"

. This "without smell" seems to be what Koznyshev grasps.

4. Discussion

Within the associational framework, the comprehension of Tolstoy's text will pass through all the senses (vision, olfaction, tactile, auditory, and gustatory) analogous to the way one absorbs the immense "music of life", "honing the senses", and according to the ancient Oriental sages "being born with an immanent synaesthesia"

. Consequently, the various combinations of sensory perceptions create the prerequisites for the emotional states and sometimes even the moral manifestations of personality.

According to the contemporary researchers, the acoustic properties of the word (text) and its acoustic properties closely resemble those of music: "Sound is the common root from which both music and verbal language have grown"

. Previously, this research strategy was shared by the renowned filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, who found that when we listen to music, we "see" images, vague or explicit, object or abstract, but which somehow correspond in some way to the music, which in some way corresponds to the perception of the music

It is sufficient to return to Tolstoy, who makes Natasha Rostova's imagination draw herself a geometric figure of a sophisticated aesthetic component, a complex a complete person's image: Pierre Bezukhov appears to Natasha as a "blue square"

, which testifies to the psychological content of the character's image, being at the same time one of the emotional designates.

Signals emanating from the various senses are mixed, and synthesized into an artistic reality, so Pierre himself is also able to see the essence of man in geometric form. Obviously, Plato's "roundness" represents the absolute correctness and righteousness of his lifestyle. However, another interesting thing is that Pierre senses this roundness of Karataev with some special (inner) vision. Their encounter takes place in the dark; they do not see each other. Meanwhile, Pierre feels something round in Plato's movements and, as Tolstoy writes, even in his smell


Feelings, as well as emotions, can be conveyed by non-verbal means, the so-called somatic language, which includes gestures, mimics, postures, facial expressions, and symbols. Although the first four are intentional, arbitrary (gestures are intended for an outside observer), spontaneous gestures and facial color changes (symptoms) are involuntary. It will be interesting to trace the somatic sayings ("somatic paraphrases", allegorically conveying this or that feeling or emotion

) in the literature, which actually describe not the gestures, facial expressions, body movements, symptoms, but the unobservable sensations emotions and other mental states behind them.

Kitty's ability to blush easily, "ruddy lips", "rosy cheeks", "pink little ear", the pink dress she chose for the ball this noted sequence can justify the embodiment of childish innocence, freshness, joyful (rainbow) world's perception ("through pink glasses"). Anna, in a black (instead of purple) velvet dress, makes a sharp contrast with Kitty: day and night. Black the color of night, sin leaves its mark on Anna's appearance. Passion took possession of her a criminal and impossible passion, and her inner state is instantly reflected in her appearance

: "She was charming in her simple black dress, her full arms with bracelets were charming, her firm neck with a string of pearls was charming, curly hair of a disordered hairstyle was charming, graceful light movements of small legs and hands were charming, this beautiful face was charming in its animation; but there was something terrible and cruel in her charms"

And although this observation obviously belongs to Kitty, since it is preceded by the remark that "some supernatural force drew Kitty's eyes to Anna's face", the very construction of the phrase with an anaphoric repetition emphasizing the word "charming" is not very characteristic of colloquial or inner mental speech (the features of which Tolstoy masterfully conveys) and having a dual meaning ("charm" in the Old Slavonic language also has the meaning of "temptation", "seduction"), betrays here the presence of the author himself, who obviously agrees with Kitty's opinion: “Yes, there is something alien, demonic and charming in her”


In such a context, associations may arise with tangibility (in the category of Tolstoy's "great body") as a personal principle (that which constitutes its center) in the structuring of the novel. Sensations (corporeality the neck, chest, black curls of Anna's hair, the eyes of Princess Marya, Katyusha Maslova as a mirror of the soul) are associated with the great classic with spiritual emanation (and with the "dialactics of the soul"). Moreover, the hierarchy of values in the artistic reality of the novel is established (established) in the process of deep reading.

5. Conclusion

However, Tolstoy seeks not only to decode silent gazes and involuntary gestures, but disclose their secret and largely unconscious impulses. Cultural reality's vision of the world can evoke extra meaningful contexts e.g: Anna's acquired habit of "squinting," denotes not only squinting her eyes, half-dreaming, but may introduce a very different existence status, being "on the edge, on the border," which, combined with the previously mentioned comments, may entail mutually contiguous semantic levels.

Consequently, the attempt to conduct an appropriate literature analysis in terms of sensory perception, the corporeal memory representations, indicating psychological moments (taking into account the importance of the concept of "The Whole" the distinctive keystone to Tolstoy's aesthetics) allows us to identify axiological associations, meaning exposer, the phenomena causality and their interrelations, both the process of world cognition and its awareness as the communicational act of the cognitive unit.

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