The sphere of concepts of the novel demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky: On revealing the main concept and its function in the poetics of the book

Natalia O. Bulgakova, Olga V. Sedelnikova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article is devoted to the revealing of the main concept of the novel Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky, analysis of its functions in the sense field organization and poetics of the book. The concept “besovstvo” [devildom] became relevant for the writer in the light of the so-cio-political situation in Russia in the 1860s. In his interpretation, it was the reason of the moral crisis concerning all the social strata. The analysis of the materials that characterize the history of the Demons creation in its connection with the poetics of the title and the epigraphs showed that the main concept of the novel is “besovstvo”. The identification of all the fragments with the nuclear lexical items of the nominal field of the concept “besovstvo” shows that three of them are verbalized in the chronicler's speech, sixteen in the characters' words. In the chronicler's speech, the features disease, fury, pride point at the deformation of the moral values. In the characters' speech (Stavrogin and Dasha, Tikhon, Stepan Trofimovich, etc.), the concept is verbalized in a more detailed way. In these fragments the features logic, infidelity, contempt, pride, helplessness revealing the reasons of the moral destruction as well as disgust and fear proving the pernicious character of this phenomenon are verbalized. The functions of the chosen fragments in the development of the narrative, composition and character structure of the novel were determined, which helped establish that the concept “besovstvo” has a key role in the poetics of the book. It unites separate stories proving the large scale of the crisis. The concept “besovtvo” determines the specificity of the plot: fragments where it is verbalized with key words have a reflective character and actualize the philosophical content of the book. In the exposition, the concept verbalization reveals the disharmony of the characters' personalities and the town life. The concept representation is more active in the second and the third parts of the book. The chapter “At Tikhon's”, highlighting the tragedy of the main hero, is of particular importance. The concept is entirely actualized in Stepan Trofimovich's speech on besovstvo that covered Russia. The Apocalypse motive that is emphasized here determines the destruction of social and moral values that regulate the characters' life. The concept actualization helps to create the system of characters, in which Stavrogin is the center. Consequently, the concept “besovstvo” in the novel Demons represents the author's view on the social and moral problems of his time, reveals the manifestation and reasons of the deep crisis that the Russian society was going through. It also unifies all the levels of the novel's poetics, determines its narrative, composition and character structure, provides the unity of the literary text.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-146
Number of pages22
JournalVestnik Tomskogo Gosudarstvennogo Universiteta, Filologiya
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Besovstvo
  • Composition
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Literary concept
  • Novel Demons
  • Plot
  • Poetics
  • System of characters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The sphere of concepts of the novel demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky: On revealing the main concept and its function in the poetics of the book'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this