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Formalist Criticism

12/3/2012
by

Chris Whyte

on 7 December 2012

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Transcript of Formalist Criticism

Background Formalist Criticism of Hamlet Defining Formalist Criticism Focus on formal elements such as language, structure, and tone
Bases its inquiry on the work itself, the text This model of criticism began in the early 20th century in reaction to Romanticist theories of literature
Rose to prominence in America from after World War II through the 1970s
Embodied by the Theory of Literature by René Wellek and Austin Warren
Other major Formalist critics were I.A. Richards and John Crowe Ransom Examples Russian Formalism Created scientific examination of literature
Includes elements of linguistics
Excludes other external conditions
Because literature is not regular communicative language, so outside conditions are not applicable New Criticism Literature is an aesthetic object
Poems, novels, and stories are works of art that themselves deserve merit These works of art are separate from their surroundings and should warrant close reading Oedipus Founded by John Crowe Ransom in his book The New Criticism "Those eyes of yours, which now can see so clearly, will be dark."
- Teiresias This quote from Oedipus is an example of irony in its use of mentioning sight and brightness from a blind prophet to a figuratively blind king The text also provides foreshadowing to the end of the play where Oedipus will turn blind alongside the fulfillment of the prophecy Slaughterhouse-Five In the novel, Vonnegut uses a specific structure choice of quick succinct paragraphs that do not follow a direct storyline but instead jump backward and forward This structure serves to mirror the Tralfamadorian belief that one can experience all moments at a given time because time is not linear " walk through a door in 1955 and come out another one in 1941" Disadvantages Formalist criticism fell out of prominence in the 1970s This was mainly due to many complaints that it viewed texts in isolation and ignored the context of the novel along with allusions Some even argued that Formalist criticism reduced literature to nothing more than a collection of rhetorical devices The Tragedy of Hamlet Formalist critics praising the work on its character development and use of literary devices
Also felt that Hamlet failed to adhere by the strict rules of classical drama in structure and plot Dramatic Structure In Hamlet, Shakespeare broke many several rules including the rule of action in a play Plays were expected to follow the advice of Aristotle which declared that drama should not focus on character so much as action. However, the highlights of Hamlet were not the action scenes, but instead the soliloquies. Also, formalist critics found the plot discontinuous and full of irregularities. The best example of this is at one moment Hamlet is resolved to kill Claudius, but in the next he is suddenly tame. Literary Devices "To be or not to be..." - Hamlet This famous soliloquy employs the use of a paradox (for one cannot both be and not be). The soliloquy also includes a play on words using sleep and death. Hamlet also uses literary devices in the novel to display the importance of nobility, as the speech of Claudius, Hamlet, and even Ophelia is filled with rhetorical figures while the speech of Horatio, the guards, and the gravediggers is much simpler. More Literary Devices In addition, Hamlet employs many uses of puns, such as when Hamlet is speaking to Ophelia


These nunnery remarks are examples of cruel double meanings with nunnery meaning both a convent and a brothel "Get thee to a nunnery"
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