Formalist Criticism Essay

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The Russian formalists emerged from the Russian Revolution with ideas about the independence of literature.

They enjoyed that independence until Stalin shut them down.

Foreword 1 Defining Criticism, Theory, and Literature Listening to a Conversation Eavesdropping on a Literature Classroom Can a Text Have More Than One Interpretation?

How to Become a Literary Critic What is Literary Criticism? Making Meaning from Text The Reading Process and Literary Theory What is Literature?

Victor Shklovsky’s pioneering “Art as Technique” (1917) defines the literary as a way to make us see familiar things as if for the first time.

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His 1921 essay on Tristram Shandy makes that eccentric novel the centerpiece for a theory of narrative.Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice, 5/e presents the thirteen basic schools of twentieth-century literary theory and criticism in their historical and philosophical contexts. Unlike other introductions to literary criticism, this book explores the philosophical assumptions of each school of criticism and provides a clear methodology for writing essays according to each school's beliefs and tenets. So, into the dripping corridors I plunged, holding this illuminating volume before me, shining brightly upon the once hidden mechanisms and tools of the mad writer, toiling behind the walls like some lonely Daedulus manically gluing and hammering on the wings in order to defy the truculent laws of physics.And while my journey of reader and writer wound through all sorts of false passages, doors opening up to brick walls, startled by skeletons hanging by manacles and chains with obvious teeth marks on bones, and though many inerrant steps led me down to dead ends, this little volume of essays helped set me right and guided me to the many entertaining corridors, leading to gleaming chambers replete with gears and gizmos spinning wildly, sent whirring, throbbing, humming and, sometimes clanking(by lesser writers) by those daring souls who challenged their talents, sat down(had an ass for it) and wrote stories and novels.” Well, dad, you were right and it took a slew of dead Russian Formalist Critics to reinforce the point along with countless drips of subliminal references encountered in my daily mundane adventures, splashing upon my writers forehead like Chinese water until I finally acquiesced to the torture and shouted, “Okay, I admit it, you’re right! ”And here the Russian Formalists of the first third of the 20th century charged into the fetid colon of literary criticism, cleansed the stale aromatics and detritus of primitive historicism from the twisting Augean corridors with ample blasts of purgative common sense that Harvey Kellogg would appreciate and provided an ample pile of techniques to root about in until, the happy smiling writer lifted up a raw diamond and polished it until it gleamed clear and clean as a usable tool.With Boris Tomashevsky, Boris Eichenbaum and Victor Shklovsky applying the full purifying power of their analysis, Formalism emerged as a great tool not only for critics but burgeoning novelists regarding writing as an actual structured craft rather than a mystical hobby for muddling through by gut instinct alone.Tomashevsky’s essay reveals the themes, motifs (dynamic vs. plot and the relationship of the hero to all those devices that create the robust bones of stories and novels. My father once tried to hammer the point into the confused webbing of my teenage mind on a fine spring day, complete with twittering birds and cheek warming sunshine.Written masterfully, the essay throws light upon the jewels in the robust and rich anterooms that provide the super structure of plot, allowing readers to tramp about the tunnels of novels and stories to reach the next elegantly appointed chamber and shout, “Aha! On the back patio of my boyhood home, he was hunkered down over his fruit salad, empty spoon hovering impressively over the dish as he paraphrased the romantic composer Johannes Brahms who once, intoned, I suspect with a righteous and stentorian attitude, something on the order of, “Structure gives you freedom!Having read one of my first scribblings, he handed me a Xeroxed copy of Boris Tomashevsky’s Formalist essay, Thematics entombed in this handy little volume.Standing before an open door, I took the bright bit of Formalist thought into my naïve hands while my dear professor Mark Davidov offered me a wise grin roughly translatable into, “Alright punk, let’s see if you dare run this bit of tense floss through the tight, moist catacombs encased in that skull of yours!


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