On the polyphony of meanings in “Eugene Onegin”

Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates


2022, Vol. 8. № 1 (29)

On the polyphony of meanings in “Eugene Onegin”

For citation: Shiltsev V. D. 2022. “On the polyphony of meanings in ‘Eugene Onegin’”. Tyumen State University Herald. Humanities Research. Humanitates, vol. 8, no. 1 (29), pp. 76-107. DOI: 10.21684/2411-197X-2022-8-1-76-107

About the author:

Vladimir D. Shiltsev, Dr. Sci. (Phys.-Math.), Foreign Corresponding Member of Academy of Sciences, Institute of Bologna (Bologna, Italy); vladimir.shiltsev@gmail.com; ORCID: 0000-0003-3282-4701


The questions of the higher hermeneutics of “Eugene Onegin” have been repeatedly considered by literary critics and philosophers, leaving a wide range of mostly subjective opinions about the meaning of the novel. We propose a new approach to isolating the main semantic series and an analysis of their development and interweaving in the text. We single out a number of main categories of meanings, and for each stanza of the novel, one or more of the most appropriate categories have been marked. The resulting graphic structures made it possible to trace the development and interweaving of meanings in the text. It was found that three-quarters of the stanzas of “Eugene Onegin” are polyphonic, in which, in addition to one semantic dominant, there is clearly another, and often a third and even a fourth one. The most frequently occurring bundles of meanings in individual stanzas or in the transition from one stanza to the next stanza are also analyzed. Our approach also make it possible to suggest a possible semantic load of the missing stanzas, marked in the text with dots, and to trace the numerous episodes of the novel when what is happening goes beyond the literary work and enters the real world, for example, through the involvement of the reader. Comparison of “Eugene Onegin” with the works of other contemporary writers and with other masterpieces of Pushkin himself shows a fundamental difference in breadth and excellent perfection of Pushkin’s creation in terms of semantic polyphony. Although the mere presence or absence of semantic polyphony, of course, is not a sufficient condition for literary piece to become a work of genius — it depends more on the realization: a combination of polished style, purity and clarity of language, the ability to evoke a reader’s emotional response etc., but the polyphony meanings of “Eugene Onegin” which we reveal does help to understand the highest meaning and extraordinary, “vital” harmony of the work, making it a unique phenomenon in world literature.


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