Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

“Imitatio Christi in Dostoevsky’s Demons”

Fri31  Mar02:45pm(15 mins)
Gilbert Scott Room 250


Katya Jordan1
1 Brigham Young University, United States


In a letter to A.N. Maikov, Dostoevsky explains that he envisions Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky at once as a “secondary personage” and “the cornerstone” of his novel Demons.  Strictly speaking, Verkhovensky represents a Russian liberal of the 1840s. As such, he is an ideological precursor of the “nechaevism” of a subsequent generation, but a closer investigation of this character’s words and actions suggests that Dostoevsky casts this character as a Christ figure in a travestied form. Dostoevsky structures Demons as a chronicle, within which Verhovensky’s story line contains some hagiographical elements that depict a life of a saint in a secular world. While many of Stepan Verkhovensky’s actions are allusions to Christ’s actions, they often have a negative value, making his life the opposite of imitatio Christi. Because Stepan Verkhovensky systematically inverts Christ’s attributes and actions, he fails in his role as a father, a teacher, and, ultimately, a savior. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the character construction of Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky to uncover the ideological genealogy of the novel’s characters.