American utopia in literary and documentary texts by American writers had an impact on Leo Tolstoy’s ideas and writings, which can be seen in the marginalia and annotations he left in his extensive personal library. The concept of utopia was deeply ingrained in Tolstoy, beginning with the childish legend of “the green stick” engraved with the magic words of universal happiness. As a child Tolstoy was fascinated with the potential of the “green stick” and its secret that could make all men happy, and he tried many times to find it. Tolstoy examined and developed this concept of universal happiness throughout different periods of his life. From the mid-1880s to his departure from Yasnaya Polyana in 1910, Tolstoy stayed in close contact with American religious writers. During this period, he received many books and periodicals from America and thus got to know the works of numerous American writers, philosophers, and public figures who were close to him in spirit. Tolstoy had a keen interest in American history, culture, art, traditions, and especially in the religious movements of America. Some of these ideas found expression in Tolstoy’s fiction and other writings.
A gloss is an interpretive aid, and glossing represents the act of interpretation itself. A gloss can be as brief as a single word, can be a coherent set of marginal notes, or can extend to whole volumes. It is an ancient form with its roots in the Roman imperial legal system. Developing alongside changes in reading practice and scholarship, the gloss evolved extensively during the Middle Ages, reaching great significance in the early modern period during the controversies of the Reformation. The gloss can be seen as subsidiary to the main text, as a crucial adjunct to it, or as a sign of the plenitude of interpretive possibility. A gloss’ presence foregrounds literary authority, hierarchies of knowledge, and processes of meaning-making. The reader of a glossed text is placed within the creative community surrounding the work and offered a heightened sense of the temporality of reading. Recent scholarship on this form has emerged from the fields of book and reading history, but owing to the marginal status of the gloss, this scholarship also has particular affinities with structuralist and poststructuralist thought.