Robin Collingwood proposed that works of art are expressions of artists’ emotions and that those who engage with them can become better able to understand emotions of their own. We apply this approach to Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, thought by many to be the world's best novel. In this book, Tolstoy wrote of situations in ways that can evoke surprise. He showed its protagonists presenting themselves as if on a stage, but they are ambivalent: they ricochet between emotional states such as flaunting and attempts to avoid shame with the result that readers can experience what they would feel in the circumstances portrayed. This enablement of readers’ emotions may be as important as the depiction of character, which is often said to be the central feature of literary novels.

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