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Formalism and Structuralism in Literary Theory

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Megen Nelson

on 10 September 2013

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Transcript of Formalism and Structuralism in Literary Theory

Formalism in Literary Theory
William Faulkner's "Barn Burning."
James Joyce's "Araby."
Edwin Arlington Robinson's "Richard Cory."


The Familiar Approaches
Social Perspectives
A Brief Overview
We will go over:

Defamiliarization in formalism.
Using defamiliarization and other aspects of formalism to explore a work of literature
How to use Formalism in our papers and how it relates to previous readings.

Formalism approaches literature as a stand-alone
set of ideals, with only the text to back things up.

Formalism - Art as Technique
Viktor Shklovsky - 1893 - 1984

Russian formalist: form over content.
"Art as Technique"
Begins with what his ideas are not.
"Art is a way of expressing the artfulness of an object: the object is not important."
Formalist Approach: Case Study
Three elements to pay attention to:
How the story is told, repetition of images, sounds, symbols, etc.
Knowing the words an author uses and understanding how they're used.
The pattern in a story that gives it its form.
In Summary...
There are two types of Formalism:
American Formalism
Russian Formalism
American Formalism focuses on thematic tension, as well as things such as Paradox, Irony, and Unity.
Russian formalism focuses on the process of "Defamiliarization," making the process of untangling literature more meaningful.
Defamiliarization and other aspects of formalism can be seen in Faulkner's "Barn Burning"
Formalism relates to Nietzche in the grounded base of science (how the point must be proven with examples), and Compte in its use of defamiliarization (how Compte makes us view humanity as animals).
Unlike the Familiar Approaches, it entirely avoids the author's history, as well as any other history, and focuses only on the work.
By: Catherine Rocher, Benjamin Gallagher, Seila Steis, and Megen Nelson
Formalism in "Barn Burning."
Allows the reader to discover the meaning of words.
Allows the reader to view a work of literature as art.
Doesn't allow the reader to research the history of an author or any other means of explaining the work.
Final Notes...
When using formalism to approach a question in theory, remember:

Look at the pieces, not the whole.
Avoid any biographical, historical, or political analysis.
Look up the meanings of individual words to find deeper meanings.
Try to find patterns in the text to discover Unity in the form of Symbolism, Figurative language, etc.
Art (poetic speech especially) has the ability to make objects "unfamiliar."
Removes them from automatic perception
Example: Tolstoy's flogging.
Perception becomes habitual, thus defamiliarization makes it new again.
The purpose of poetry is to stop us from living in a void.
Shklovsky on Poetry
No single device is essential to poetry.
Figures of speech
Poetry makes man look at things with a high level of awareness.
Defamiliarization in the opening by introducing the shop in an unfamiliar manner
The repetition of Abner's grey eyes and shaggy brow.
Irony in Abner's will to burn anything but that which will keep him warm.
Uses words to describe a pattern of grief and despair
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