Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin's Eugene Onegin: A Fractal Analysis

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin's Eugene Onegin: A Fractal Analysis

Article excerpt


A Google Internet search of the name Eugene Onegin at 4:17 PM on October 31, 2015 yielded approximately 456,000 results in 0.39 seconds. This means that the work is getting a great deal of attention. Yet, our laborious search yielded no deep structural systematic analysis that has extracted linguistic facets in the entire text, even though such potential exists. We attempt to fill the void in this paper. We utilize the mathematical concept of Fractal Dimension and Complexity Theory to examine the idea of spectrum progressing from more orderly to less orderly or to pure disorder in the text. This required the use of the Pluridisciplinary approach that allowed us to combine linguistics and mathematical approaches, specifically Linguistic Presupposition and Fractal Methodology. The MATLAB computer program was employed to analyze the data teased from the work.

Before discussing a sample of the works on Eugene Onegin, the research methodology upon which the present study is grounded, and the results generated from the MATLAB computer runs, however, it makes sense to end this section with a brief background and description of the features of the work for those readers who may not be familiar with it.

Generally described as a novel in verse, Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin's Eugene Onegin is a classic Russian literature whose eponymous protagonist has served as the archetype for many Russian heroes dubbed "superfluous men." The work was published as a series between 1825 and 1832. The first complete version was published in 1833 while the contemporary accepted edition is based on the 1837 version (Johnston, 1977; Leighton, 1977; Cravens, 2002; Torgovitskaya, 2009).

Eugene Onegin comprises approximately 400 14-line stanzas of iambic tetrameter of an unusual rhyme formula "AbAbCCddEffEgg," whereby the lowercase letters constitute the feminine rhymes and the uppercase letters comprise the masculine rhymes. The style is widely referred to as the "Onegin stanza" or the "Pushkin sonnet." Accordingly, Pushkin is characterized as "the undisputed master of Russian poetry" because of the virtuosity demonstrated in the prudent clarity of presentation, the natural tone and diction, and the original rhythm system of his work (Johnston, 1977; Leighton, 1977; Hofstadter, 1996; Cravens, 2002; Torgovitskaya, 2009).

In a moderately imaginative kind of Pushkin's likeness, the narrator tells the story with an erudite, innermost and enlightened tone. In order to elaborate on facets of this intellectual and social world, the narrator occasionally deviates a little from the plot. The approach yields well developed characters and an emphasis on the drama of the plot, the relative simplicity of the story notwithstanding (Johnston, 1977; Leighton, 1977; Hofstadter, 1996; Cravens, 2002; Torgovitskaya, 2009).

Review of Works on Eugene Onegin

As stated earlier, there are many book reviews and essays on Eugene Onegin in English and Russian. For the sake of brevity, we review in this section ten of these works--five from each language--with different genres. The following is a review of these works in the chronological order in which they were published.

The first effort of assessing the merits of Eugene Onegin is the 1913 statistical analysis performed by A. A. Markov in the Russian Language. He finds that in Eugene Onegin the probability of a letter being a vowel depends on the vowel preceding it or the consonant letter preceding it (1913:158).

In his latter English version, Markov (2006) performs a statistical analysis utilizing an extract comprising 20,000 Russian letters of the alphabet, excluding [??] and '[??], in the work--from the entire first chapter and 16 stanzas of the second--to examine the connected serials that are either consonants or vowels. He postulates that there exists an unknown constant probability p that the observed letter is a vowel. He then counts through observation all of the consonants and vowels to delineate the rough value of p. …

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