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Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444333275.2013.x


A concept and term introduced by Viktor Shklovsky (1893–1984), an important member of the Russian School of Formalism ( q.v. ). It is a translation of the Russian ostranenie ‘making strange’. To ‘defamiliarize’ is to make fresh, new, strange, different what is familiar and known. Through defamiliarization the writer modifies the reader's habitual perceptions by drawing attention to the artifice of the text. This is a matter of literary technique. What the reader notices is not the picture of reality that is being presented but the peculiarities of the writing itself. In his essay Art as Technique (1917) Shklovsky makes his point pretty clear: The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived, and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar’, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty of length and 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 . Linked with this is the idea of ‘laying bare’, or exposing, the techniques and devices by which a work of art is constructed. The classic example analysed by Shklovsky is Sterne's Tristram Shandy (1760–7). Russian Formalists tend to be interested in texts which are ‘anti-realist’; hence they privilege Tristram Shandy or modernist ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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