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Russian formalism

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This is a brief presentation of the basic concepts introduced by Russian formalism. It might be considered as a suitable departing point to the understanding of this literary theory.

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Russian formalism

  1. 1. Formalism Baya BENSALAH bensalah30@gmail.com Text Russian
  2. 2. A school of literary criticism that emerged in Russia around 1915,
  3. 3. Founders of Russian Formalism
  4. 4. Viktor Shklovsky Boris Eichenbaum Roman Jakobson Vladimir Propp Yuri Tynianov Understand artworks!
  5. 5. The focus is on form, not content, on language, not on Exophora (biography, culture, history, religion… )
  6. 6. "Literary works […] resemble machines: they are the result of an intentional human activity in which a specific skill transforms raw material into a complex mechanism suitable for a particular purpose" (Steiner, "Russian Formalism" 18)
  7. 7. Emphasis on the functional role of DEVICES How does a car work? Break the devices down into their constituent parts!
  8. 8. A text is made up of devices Similarly… Stylistic devices… Literary devices… Narrative devices…
  9. 9. 1.Formalism's Technical terms Fabula (Story) vs. Syuzhet (Plot) Practical and Poetic Language, Literature and Literariness. Foregrounding vs. Backgrounding
  10. 10. Fabula (Story) VS. Syuzhet (Presentation, Plot)
  11. 11. Fabula (Story) : What is the text about? What happens?
  12. 12. Fight Club (1999) An example
  13. 13. “is about a guy (Edward Norton) who invents an alternate persona, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), in order to give himself the courage to break out of his mundane white collar existence.” Fabula (Story)
  14. 14. MORPHOLOGY OF THE FOLK TALE (Propp) [1] Syuzhet (Presentation, Plot): How is the text arranged? How is the story told?
  15. 15. “The narrative begins at its climax, which is interrupted, and only then proceeds to the story’s chronological beginning. From that point on, the film contains a mix of chronologically-ordered scenes and bits of narrative exposition that allow us, ultimately, to return to and understand the climax, which is then resolved in the final minutes of the movie. Furthermore, the narration conceals from us for most of the film’s running time the fact that Tyler Durden is the psychological creation of the nameless narrator/protagonist.” Syuzhet (Plot)
  16. 16. A classic text, commonly viewed as one fountainhead of Narratology is: Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale [1] The discipline concerned with Fabula (Story) and Syuzhet (Plot) is called Narratology
  17. 17. Narrative devices… Narrative Structure (The thirty-one functions of the Narratemes Narrative Point of view [2] (First/Third/Second person narrators…etc) Characterization (The Functions of Eight Dramatis Personae: the he
  18. 18. Narrative Structure An example
  19. 19. Practical and Poetic Language
  20. 20. “Poetic speech is framed speech. Prose is ordinary speech – economical, easy, proper, the goddess of prose [dea prosae] is a goddess of the accurate, facile type, of the “direct” expression of a child” (Shklovsky 20).
  21. 21. Poetic Language is “a difficult, roughened, impeded language.” This distinction between Poetic language and Practical language is introduced by Shklovsky and applies to all artistic forms. It is basically what makes…
  22. 22. “Artfulness” of Art and “LITERARINESS” of Literature
  23. 23. “The literariness or artfulness of a work of literature, that which makes it an aesthetic object, resides entirely in its devices, which should also form the sole object of literary studies. The aesthetic value or purpose of art, embodied in the devices, consists in creating in readers or viewers a heightened awareness, making them see things anew “ (Coleridge’s Freshness Of Sensation, Ezra Pound’s Making It New).
  24. 24. Making It New In Shklovsky’s terms, it is…
  25. 25. “Art makes the familiar strange so that it can be freshly perceived. To do this it presents its material in unexpected, even outlandish ways: the shock of the new.” o s t r a n e n i e Viktor Shklovsky (1893–1984)
  26. 26. “And so, held accountable for nothing, life fades into nothingness. Automatization eats away at things, at clothes, at furniture, at our wives, and at our fear of war. [...] And so, in order to return sensation to our limbs, in order to make us feel objects, to make a stone feel stony, man has been given the tool of art.”
  27. 27. The purpose of art, then, is to lead us to a knowledge of a thing through the organ of sight instead of recognition. By “enstranging” objects and complicating form, the device of art makes perception long and “laborious.” The perceptual process in art has a purpose all its own and ought to be extended to its fullest.” (5–6)
  28. 28. To make the familiar strange… [the shock of the new] is…
  29. 29. Defamiliarization, estrangement, or… Photo: Karl Brtling at http://beautifulpeopleliveart.com/surrealist-photography/#jp-carousel-5033
  30. 30. “The technique of art is to make objects 'unfamiliar', to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important.” (Shklovsky: Art as Technique)
  31. 31. “Art exists that one may recover the sensation of life, it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stoney .” (Shklovsky: Art as Technique) )
  32. 32. How is Defamiliarization achieved in a text? It is achieved through foregrounding…
  33. 33. “Foregrounding” Vs. “Backgrounding”
  34. 34. “the throwing into relief’ of the linguistic sign against the background of the norms of ordinary language.” (Wales 2001: 157) [3]
  35. 35. Devices used to Foreground:
  36. 36. 1.Unusual/Unreliable Narrators • A Horse in Tolstoy's Kholstomer; • A deranged person in Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart” • A mentally retarded in Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury
  37. 37. 2. Language: • Neologism, • Compounding, • Peculiar syntactic constructions (too simplistic, or too complex…) • Absence or lack of punctuation,
  38. 38. 3. Vulgarity of expressions: (e.g., The stylistic shift between the obscene and the sublime in Pushkin’s 'The Waggon of Life,)
  39. 39. 4. Disrupted Narratives (e.g., use of Stream of consciousness Technique, Interior monologue (Woolf, Joyce, Faulkner …)
  40. 40. 5. Unconventional beginnings and finals: (e.g., Medias res, Ultimas res, Cliffhangers…)[Note1]
  41. 41. [1] Vladimir Propp (1928) Morphology of the Folktale, trans. Laurence Scott, revised Louis A. Wagner (Austin: University of Texas Press 1968). [2] Roland Barthes, "Introduction à l’analyse structurale des récits" (1966 Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narrative, "Image—Music—Text, ed. and trans. Stephen Heath, 1977) [3] Wales, K. (2001), Dictionary of Stylistics (2nd ed.) Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education Ltd. References [N1] Cliffhangers is an abrupt finale that does not really complete the plot and often leaves the main characters in a precarious or difficult situation, e.g., Raymond Carver collection Short Cuts (1993) “Neighbors”; “Vitamins”; “Will You Please Be Quiet Please?” In medias res, the point of attack (the beginning of the story) is set close to the climax of the action; in ultimas res, it occurs after the climax and near the end (See Manfred. J 2003).

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