Seminar Paper, 2009, 10 Pages
In the course of this essay the terminology that was applied by the Russian Formalist theoreticians shall be investigated (many terms were even invented and introduced by the Formalists themselves). More precisely, a careful look will be taken at how the literary critics,
Medvedev and Bakhtin in The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship 1 and Hansen-Löve in Der Russische Formalismus 2 examine the Formalist terms. In order to evaluate Formalist terminology accurately and objectively, the mentioned critics’ theories shall be underpinned by and contrasted with the opinion of other critics in this field.
Two of Shklovsky’s articles, The Resurrection of the Word 3 and Art as Device 4 are taken as a starting point for paving the way for a detailed analysis of the formal terminology. The major focus lies on the term ‘ostranenie’ that was firstly introduced by Shklovsky (1991) and is most commonly translated as ‘estrangement’, ‘defamiliarisation’ or ‘making it strange’. The essay shall not only analyse the origins of this concept, but furthermore, compare the different interpretations the term entails. Hansen-Löve’s evaluation of the concept of ostranenie as well as Medvedev and Bakhtin’s assessment of Shklovsky’ analysis of Tolstoy’s
1 Medvedev P.N. and Bakhtin M.M., The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship: A Critical Introduction to Sociological Poetics, (Baltimore/London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1978).
2 Hansen-Löve, Aage.A, Der Russische Formalismus: Methodologische Rekonstruktion seiner Entwicklung aus dem Prinzip der Verfremdung, (Vienna: Verlag der österreichischen Akademien der Wissenschaften, 1978).
3 Shklovsky, Victor, ‘The Resurrection of the Word’, in Russian Formalism: A Collection of Articles and Texts in Translation, Bann, Stephen and Bowlt, John E. (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1973), pp.41-47.
4 Shklovsky, Victor, ‘Art as Device’, in Theory of Prose, Shklovsky, Victor (IL: Dalkey Archive Press,1991), pp.1-14.
Kholstomer in the view of estrangement reveals the critical approach on which this essay is based on.
Moreover, the Russian term of ‘obnazenie’, the ‘laying-bare’ of the work (Hansen-Löve, 1978) and ‘oveshchestvlenie’, the process of materialisation (Medvedev & Bakhtin, 1978), shall be regarded throughout this essay, since both concepts go hand in hand with the idea of ostranenie.
In the last part of the essay, the formal theory of shutting out subjective consciousness from the work (Medvedev & Bakhtin, 1978) and the effects of this concept are in the centre of the attention. This shall lead to the final evaluation of the quality in the formalist concept of perception.
2. Ostranenie, Obnazenie and Oveshchestvlenie
In order to analyse major components of the concept of Russian Formalism, firstly, Shklovsky’s article The Resurrection of the Word shall be considered. With resurrecting the word, the Formalists sought the independence of the word from any meaning and significance. Thus, as suggested in The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, other components of the word, such as its phonologic and structural elements, that are autonomous from the meaning, are essential in motivating the artistic process. By emancipating the word from its essence, more precisely by eradicating its sense, a new idea of the term is constructed, a word that looks unfamiliar (Medvedev & Bakhtin, 1978). In that sense, it was the Formalists’ aim of displaying the familiar in an unusual way, so that it is perceived in a new light. This showing of an object in a distorted way is regarded as the
process of ‘breaking down the barrier of automatic perception’. 5 By ‘tearing the object out of its habitual context’, which is referred to as ‘de-automatisation’, we are pulled into
experiencing the naked sensory structure of the object. 6
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