This introductory chapter provides an overview of Leo Tolstoy's attempts to describe and define his own self through his nonfiction first-person writings. In his early diaries, the young Tolstoy worked on developing a method for capturing, in their entirety, his past, present, and future. In the course of the 1850s, Tolstoy made a transition from diary-writing to professional authorship and fiction. In all of Tolstoy's self-narratives, from his first diaries to his religious treatises, there is an essential moral and social dimension to the question of the self. He knew that to know and to say who you are is to be oriented in moral space, deciding, “What ought I to do?”—a question which he addressed in a number of writings, from early pedagogical essays to the intensely personal treatise that deals with his later attempts to help the urban poor, What Should We Do Then? (1882–89).
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