[ History of English
| English Composition
| Literary Authors
| Literary Works
| Literary Criticism
Glossary of Literary Theory
An application of the linguistic model to literature, associated in
the early part of this century with the Moscow and Prague
Linguistic Circles. According to the precepts of Russian Formalism,
content is the "motivation" of form, and the literary work is
an assemblage of devices which function within a total textual system.
"Literariness" emerges when these devices, normally perceived
by the reader to be familiar and conventional, are foregrounded, brought
into an unaccustomed prominence such that the effect upon the reader is
one of estrangement or defamiliarization.
Literature, by "baring the device," deautomatizes one's perceptions,
its language composing a deliberate set of deviations from the norms of
ordinary language. In its hybridization -- its heterogeneous mixture of
devices, conventions, forms, and techniques -- literature, in the words
of Roman Jakobson, is "organized violence committed on ordinary speech."
In a general sense, "formalism" is applied to any critical approach
(including New Criticism) that regards
the text as a self-enclosed universe of discourse, subject to interpretation
without reference to biographical or historical context.
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University of Toronto
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