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Buyanovskaya V.I. Poor Folk by Fyodor Dostoevsky as a Dialogue between the Old and the New Word. Studia Litterarum, 2018, vol. 3, no 4, pp. 152–169. (In Russ.)

DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2018-3-4-152-169

Author: Victoria I. Buyanovskaya
Information about the author:

Victoria I. Buyanovskaya, student, National Research University “The Higher School of Economics”, Staraya Basmannaya St, 21/4, 105066 Moscow, Russia.

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Received: January 27, 2018
Published: December 25, 2018
Issue: 2018 Vol. 3, №4
Department: Russian Literature
Pages: 152-169

UDK: 821.161.1
BBK: 83.3(2Рос=Рус)52
Keywords: Dostoyevsky, Poor Folk, epistolary novel, dialogic narrative.


Although Poor Folk, the first novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, has been thoroughly studied, the correlation between its characters’ epistolary styles is not yet clarified. Varvara Dobroselova’s language usually escapes critical attention, albeit her “verbal” function in the novel might even exceed her “plot” function. Makar Alekseyevich’s style develops itself in the endless dialogue with “pattern” style and can be only understood in comparison. The article focuses on the major differences in the narrative strategies of the characters. It reveals the opposition of Varvara Alekseyevna’s “ready-made” word deeply enrooted in the sentimental tradition and Devushkin’s language which is intensely forming at the moment of writing and shifts constantly from one level of discourse to another. The topics selected by the characters, time orientation of their letters, and their style are closely analyzed in comparative perspective. The analysis reveals an important regularity: the expressiveness in Varvara Alekseyevna’s letters is attained through paralipsis, while Devushkin’s letters are expressive precisely as they speak even the most obscure and painful things. Devushkin’s language, as the article shows, tends to appropriate and combine diverse elements of the style of the other and to explore new thematic and stylistic spheres. As a result, the problems and techniques of the Natural School emerge in his letters. The study of Devushkin’s speech strategy with its effusive and even aggressive nature allows us to conclude that the character not only “unbosoms his feelings,” but also tries to assert himself in the new word, as it were, when arguing with Varvara Alekseyevna (read: old literature).


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