russian formalism by sichankomik

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									Russian Formalism
Russian Formalism, a movement of literary criticism and interpretation, emerged in
Russia during the second decade of the twentieth century and remained active until about
1930. Members of what can be loosely referred to as the Formalist school emphasized
first and foremost the autonomous nature of literature and consequently the proper study
of literature as neither a reflection of the life of its author nor as byproduct of the
historical or cultural milieu in which it was created. In this respect, proponents of a
formalist approach to literature attempted not only to isolate and define the "formal"
properties of poetic language (in both poetry and prose) but also to study the way in
which certain aesthetically motivated devices (e.g., defamiliarization [ostranenie])
determined the literariness or artfulness of an object.
                From its inception, the Russian Formalist movement consisted of two
distinct scholarly groups, both outside the academy- the Moscow Linguistic Circle, which
was founded by the linguist Roman Jakobson in 1915 and included Grigorii Vinokur and
Petr Bogatyrev, and the Petersburg OPOIaZ, or Society for the Study of Poetic Language,
which came into existence a year later and was known for scholars such as Victor
Shklovskii, Iurii Tynianov, Boris Eikhenbaum, Boris Tomashevskii, and Victor
Vinogradov. (It should be noted that the term "formalist" was initially applied
pejoratively to the Moscow Linguistic Circle and OPOIaZ.) Although the leading figures
in the Russian Formalist movement tended to disagree with one another on what
constituted formalism, they were united in their attempt to move beyond the
psychologism and biographism that pervaded nineteenth-century Russian literary
scholarship. Although the Symbolists had partially succeeded in redressing the imbalance
of content over form (see Andrei Bely's studies in Symbolism [1910] on meter and
rhyme), they "could not rid themselves of the notorious theory of the 'harmony of form
and content' even though it clearly contradicted their bent for formal experimentation and
discredited it by making it seem mere 'aestheticism'" (Eikhenbaum, "Theory" 112).
                In many ways, however, the Formalists remained indebted to two leading
nineteenth-century literary and linguistic theoreticians, Aleksandr Veselovskii (1838-
1906) and Aleksander Potebnia (1835-81). Veselovskii's work in comparative studies of
literature and folklore as well as in the theory of literary evolution attracted the attention
of the Formalists (particularly Shklovskii, Eikhenbaum, and Vladimir Propp), who found
much of interest in his positivist notions of literary history and the evolution of poetic
forms. More specifically, as Peter Steiner argues, "mechanistic Formalism was in some
respects a mirror image of Veselovskii's poetics" insofar as both stressed the "genetic"
aspect in their theories of literary evolution.
                Like the Formalists, Potebnia made a careful distinction between practical
and poetic language. But his well-known maxim that "art is thinking in images" (an idea,
it should be noted, that was promoted earlier by mid-nineteenth-century literary critics
Vissarion Belinskii and Nikolai Chernyshevskii) made him an object of derision in
Formalist writings. Shklovskii categorically objected to Potebnia's notion of the image,
arguing that since the same image could be found in various writers' works, the image
itself was less important than the techniques used by poets to arrange images. Shklovskii

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further noted that images were common in both prosaic (common, everyday language)
and poetic language; hence, the image could not be considered uniquely essential to
verbal art. Potebnia's theories led to "far-fetched interpretations" and, what is more
important, knowledge about the object itself rather than the poetic device(s) that enabled
one to perceive the object (Shklovskii, "Art" 6). Above all, it was "literariness," rather
than either image or referent, that the Formalists pursued in their studies of poetry and
prose. With slight variations, literariness in Formalism denoted a particular essential
function present in the relationship or system of poetic works called literature.
                The personal and intellectual cooperation of the Moscow Linguistic Circle
and OPOIaZ yielded several volumes of essays (Sborniki po teorii poeticheskogo iazyka
[Studies in the theory of poetic language], 6 vols., 1916-23). Given that many of the
Formalists had been students of the Polish linguist Jan Baudoin de Courtenay and were
well apprised of the latest developments made in linguistics by the Swiss linguist
Ferdinand de Saussure, it is not surprising that most of the essays in these volumes reflect
a predominant interest in linguistics (see Jakubinskii, "O zvukakh stikhotvornago iazyka"
[On the sounds of poetic language], 1916; and Brik, "Zvukovye povtory" [Sound
repetitions], 1917). But while members of the Moscow Linguistic Circle considered the
study of poetics to fall under the broader category of linguistics, OPOIaZ Formalists (such
as Eikhenbaum or Viktor Zhirmunskii in "Zadachi poètiki" [The tasks of poetics],
Nachala, 1921) insisted that the two be kept distinct. Shklovskii, for instance, remained
predominantly concerned with literary theory (the laws of expenditure and economy in
poetic language, general laws of plots and general laws of perception) rather than with
linguistics, while Eikhenbaum and Tynianov are best known for their work as literary
historians. Other Formalists, such as Tomashevskii (who was also interested in prose) and
Jakobson, approached meter and rhythm in verse with a statistical approach and
attempted to isolate the metrical laws in operation.
                More specifically, the Formalists understood poetic language as operating
both synchronically and, as Tzvetan Todorov notes, in an autonomous or "autotelic"
fashion. The Formalists consistently stressed the internal mechanics of the poetic work
over the semantics of extraliterary systems, that is, politics, ideology, economics,
psychology, and so on. Thus, Roman Jakobson's 1921 analysis of futurist poet Velemir
Khlebnikov, and especially his notion of the samovitoe slovo ("self-made word") and
zaum ("transrational language"), serves essentially to illustrate the proposition that poetry
is an utterance directed toward "expression" (Noveishaia russkaia poèziia [Recent
Russian poetry]). Indeed, the futurist exploration of the exotic realm of zaum parallels the
Formalist preoccupation with sound in poetic language at the phonemic level. In a similar
way, essays such as Eikhenbaum's "How Gogol's 'Overcoat' Is Made" (1919, trans.,
1978), which examined narrative devices and acoustic wordplay in the text without
drawing any extraliterary, sociocultural conclusions, emphasized the autonomous, self-
referential nature of verbal art. One of the most important of the devices Eikhenbaum
described in that essay was skaz. Skaz, which in Russian is the root of the verb skazat', "to
tell," may be compared to "free indirect discourse" (in German, erlebte Rede), which is
marked by the grammar of third-person narration and the style, tone, and syntax of direct
speech on the part of the character.
                Certain Formalists were not quite so eager to dismiss issues of content,

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however: Zhirmunskii maintained an interest in the thematic level of the poetic work;
Tynianov considered an understanding of byt, the content of everyday, common language
and experience as opposed to consciously poetic language, essential to any analysis of a
poetic work. Rather than resolving the issue of form versus content, the Formalists tended
instead to downplay it or to reframe it in new terms. For example, Eikhenbaum asserted
the need to "destroy these traditional correlatives [form and content] and so to enrich the
idea of form with new significance" (Eikhenbaum, "Theory" 115). "Technique,"
continued Eikhenbaum in the same essay, is "much more significant in the long-range
evolution of formalism than is the notion of 'form'" (115). In his defense of the primacy of
form, Shklovskii explained that "a new form appears not in order to express a new
content, but in order to replace an old form, which has already lost its artistic value"
("Connection" 53).
                  Rejecting the subjectivism of nineteenth-century literary scholarship, the
Formalists insisted that the study of literature be approached by means of a scientific and
objective methodology. Their emphasis upon the scientific study of poetic language may
be viewed in four ways. First, it may be traced to the more general nineteenth-century
West European turn toward classification, genealogy, and evolution in the human
sciences. In his best-known work, Morphology of the Folktale (1928, trans., 1958),
Propp, a somewhat more peripheral yet not unimportant figure in the Formalist
movement, employed the rhetoric and methodology of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and
Georges Cuvier in his attempt to isolate certain regularly recurring features of the
folktale. Second, the Russian Formalists viewed their work as a direct challenge to what
they perceived as the subjectivism and mysticism inherent in the Symbolist movement
(i.e., the literature and criticism of Aleksander Blok, Bely, and Viacheslav Ivanov, among
others). Tomashevskii went so far as to denounce the futurists as well as the Symbolists,
claiming that it was futurism, especially, that "intensified to a hyperbolic clarity those
features which had previously appeared only in hidden, mystically masked forms of
Symbolism" ("Literature" 54). Third, Formalism sought to create a professional discipline
independent of nineteenth-century configurations of university scholarship. And fourth,
the Formalist shift toward science may also be considered as a response to the broader
(and more radical) social, economic, and political transformations that the influx of
industry and new technology helped to precipitate throughout early twentieth-century
Russia. Not surprisingly, the poetic fetishization of the machine found in futurist poetics
and avant-garde aesthetics quickly made its way into Formalist thought. Shklovskii's
analyses of poetic works are distinguished by his reliance upon the metaphor of the
machine (Steiner 44-67) and the rhetoric of technology to account for such poetic devices
and formal laws as automatization and defamiliarization. Ironically, objectives of
scientificity in Formalist literary study were held up as an ideal, but only insofar as the
Formalists believed scientificity would shield their theory from external influences, since
everything outside the poetic system could only corrupt and obfuscate data extrapolated
from the text. By 1930 it was clear that this was not to be the case.
                  For Shklovskii, "literariness" is a function of the process of
defamiliarization, which involves "estranging," "slowing down," or "prolonging"
perception and thereby impeding the reader's habitual, automatic relation to objects,
situations, and poetic form itself (see "Art" 12). According to Shklovskii, the difficulty

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involved in the process is an aesthetic end in itself, because it provides a heightened
sensation of life. Indeed, the process of "laying bare" the poetic device, such as the
narrative self-reflexiveness of Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy and its emphasis on the
distinction between story and plot (see Theory of Prose), remained for Shklovskii one of
the primary signs of artistic self-consciousness.
                The notion that new literary production always involves a series of
deliberate, self-conscious deviations from the poetic norms of the preceding genre and/or
literary movement remained fundamental to Shklovskii's and other Formalists' theories of
literary evolution. Tynianov's and Jakobson's notion of the "dominant" approximates
Shklovskii's emphasis on defamiliarization, albeit as a feature of the diachronic system,
inasmuch as it demands that other devices in the poetic text be "transformed" or pushed
to the background to allow for the "foregrounding" of the dominant device. The function
of the dominant in the service of literary evolution included the replacement of canonical
forms and genres by new forms, which in turn would become canonized and, likewise,
replaced by still newer forms (see esp. Tynianov, "Literary," and Jakobson, "Dominant").
                Toward the end of the Formalist period, the emphasis on the synchronic
nature of poetic devices was gradually mediated by a growing realization that literature
and language should be considered within their diachronic contexts as well (see Tynianov
and Jakobson). Some critics--Krystyna Pomorska, Fredric Jameson, Jurij Striedter--regard
this later shift in Formalist theory (as described particularly in the works of Tynianov)
toward establishing a set of systemic relations between the internal and external
organization of the poetic work as protostructuralist. However, newly emerging literary
groups such as the Bakhtin Linguistic Circle (M. M. Bakhtin, Pavel Medvedev, Valentin
Voloshinov) and Prague School Structuralism (Jan Mukarovsky) found the Formalists'
attempts to incorporate a diachronic view of the literary work insufficient. Critics (e.g.,
Medvedev) attacked the Formalists for refusing to address social and ideological concerns
in poetic language. The same criticism, of course, was leveled at the Formalists by the
Soviet state (especially by Anatolii Lunacharskii and Lev Trotskii), and with much more
serious consequences. Various individuals and groups advocating or at least incorporating
a Marxist perspective on literature, including members of the "sociological school" as
well as the Bakhtin school in the 1920s, attacked the Formalists for neglecting the social
and ideological discourses impinging upon the structure and function of the poetic work.
In The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship (1928), Medvedev dismisses the
Formalists primarily for failing to provide an adequate sociological and philosophical
justification for their theories. While many critics (e.g., Victor Erlich) approach Bakhtin's
work as distinct from that of the Formalist school, others (e.g., Gary Saul Morson and
Striedter) view Bakhtin's work as historically connected to the broader aims and
implications of the Russian Formalist movement. Despite Tynianov and Jakobson's
attempt to connect the aims of Formalism to the broader issues of culture (as an entire
complex of systems), Russian Formalism remained committed to the idea that
"literariness" alone, rather than the referent and its various contingencies, historical and
otherwise, was the proper focus of literary scholarship.
                Perhaps the ongoing, seemingly irresoluble debate over what constitutes
Formalism (both then and now) arises in part from what Jurij Striedter describes as the
"dialogic" nature of Formalism itself. The Formalists, especially Tynianov, based their

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theories of literary evolution (and their own role therein) largely upon G. W. F. Hegel's
dialectical method. In his summary of the contributions of the Formalist movement,
Eikhenbaum ironically concluded that "when we have a theory that explains everything, a
ready-made theory explaining all past and future events and therefore needing neither
evolution nor anything like it--then we must recognize that the formal method has come
to an end" ("Theory" 139). Eikhenbaum's vision of a type of Formalist dialectics suggests
the dynamic character of the movement as a whole, though external political pressure was
surely also a factor by the time Eikhenbaum wrote his essay in 1926.
                Shklovskii's 1930 denunciation of Formalism signaled not just that
political pressures had worsened but that the de facto end of the Formalist movement had
arrived. Even before Shklovskii was forced to abandon Formalism to political exigencies,
the Moscow Linguistic Circle and OPOIaZ had already dissolved in the early 1920s, the
former in 1920 with the departure of its founder, Roman Jakobson, for Czechoslovakia,
the latter in 1923. With the banning of all artistic organizations (including the various
associations of proletarian writers) and the introduction of "socialist realism" as the new,
official socialist literature of the Soviet Union in 1932, the Russian Formalist movement
came to an official close.
                The Formalist approach continued to make itself felt, however, in
European and, later, American literary scholarship (though, it should be noted, the
formalism of New Criticism possessed no direct relation to Russian Formalism). The
immediate heirs to the Formalist legacy were the Prague Linguistic Circle (founded in
1926 by Jakobson and a group of Czech linguists) and the Bakhtin Linguistic Circle. The
contributions of the Prague Linguistic Circle (especially of Mukarovsky) eventually made
their way into the literary discourses of French structuralism. The work of French
structural anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss echoes and acknowledges the work of
Propp and, to a lesser extent, Tynianov's interest in cultural and literary systems. The
Bakhtin Linguistic Circle's work (which first attracted the attention of Western scholars in
the 1970s) extends several Formalist concerns, not the least of which deal with narrative
theory and discourse in the novel. The development of structural-semiotic research and
the emergence of the Moscow-Tartu School of semiotics in the 1960s (see the writings of
such scholars as Viacheslav Ivanov, Iurii Lotman, Vladimir Toporov, Boris Gasparov,
and Boris Uspenskii, to name just a few) may also be viewed as an extension of the aims
and interests of both formalism and structuralism. Specifically, semiotic research
continues to renew in various ways the Formalist emphasis upon language and the
devices therein that function to generate meaning as sign systems.
                In the United States, the Formalist approach found a sympathetic cousin in
New Criticism, which emphasized, though in organic forms actually reminiscent of
Russian Symbolism, the literary text as a discrete entity whose meaning and interpretation
need not be contaminated by authorial intention, historical conditions, or ideological
demands. Poststructuralism (and Deconstruction) in the 1970s and 1980s, though a partial
critique of the organic notions of form in much American New Criticism, nevertheless
extended certain Formalist assumptions. Figures as diverse as Roland Barthes, Paul de
Man, Julia Kristeva, and Fredric Jameson are all heavily indebted to the aims and
strategies of Russian Formalism.

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Karen A. McCaule

Notes and Bibliography

See also M. M. Bakhtin, Prague School Structuralism, Russian Theory and Criticism: Nineteenth Century,
and Structuralism.

Stephen Bann and John E. Bowlt, eds., Russian Formalism: A Collection of Articles and Texts in
Translation (1973); Osip Brik, "Zvukovye povtory" [Sound repetitions], Sborniki po teorii poeticheskago
iazyka 2 (1917); Boris Eikhenbaum, "Kak sdelana 'Shinel'' Gogolia" (1919, "How Gogol's 'Overcoat' Is
Made," Gogol from the Twentieth Century: Eleven Essays, ed. and trans. Robert A. Maguire, 1974),
"Teoriia 'formalnogo metoda'" (1927, "The Theory of the 'Formal Method,'" Lemon and Reis [appeared
first in Ukrainian in 1926]); Roman Jakobson, "The Dominant" (Matejka and Pomorska), Noveishaia
russkaia poèziia [Recent Russian poetry] (1921, Selected Writings, vol. 5, 1979); Lev Jakubinskii, "O
zvukakh stikhotvornago iazyka" [On the sounds of poetic language], Sborniki po teorii poeticheskago
iazyka 1 (1916); Lee T. Lemon and Marion J. Reis, eds. and trans., Russian Formalist Criticism: Four
Essays (1965); Ladislav Matejka and Krystyna Pomorska, eds., Readings in Russian Poetics: Formalist and
Structuralist Views (1978); P. N. Medvedev, Formal'nyi metod v literaturovedenii (Kriticheskoe vvedenie v
sotsiologicheskuiu poetiku) (1928, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship: A Critical Introduction to
Sociological Poetics, trans. Albert J. Wehrle, 1978 [sometimes attributed also to M. M. Bakhtin]);
Christopher Pike, ed. and trans., The Futurists, the Formalists, and the Marxist Critique (1979); Vladimir
Propp, Morfologiia skazki (1928, Morphology of the Folktale, trans. Laurence Scott, 1958, 2d ed., ed.
Louis A. Wagner, 1968); Victor Shklovskii, "Iskusstvo kak priem" (1917, "Art as Technique," Lemon and
Reis), "On the Connection between Devices of Siuzhet Construction and General Stylistic Devices" (1919,
Bann and Bowlt), O teorii prozy (1927, Theory of Prose, trans. Benjamin Sher, 1990), "Tristram Shendi:
Sterna i teoriia romana" [Sterne's Tristram Shandy and the theory of the novel] (1921, "Sterne's Tristram
Shandy: Stylistic Commentary," Lemon and Reis); B. V. Tomashevskii, "Literatura i biografiia" (1923,
"Literature and Biography," Matejka and Pomorska), Teoriia Literatury [Theory of literature] (1928); Iurii
Tynianov, "O literaturnoi evoliucii" (1929, "On Literary Evolution," Matejka and Pomorska), The Problem
of Verse Language (1924, ed. and trans. Michael Sosa and Brent Harvey, 1981); Iurii Tynianov and Roman
Jakobson, "Problemy izucheniia literatury i iazyka" (1928, "Problems in the Study of Literature and
Language," Matejka and Pomorska).

Victor Erlich, Russian Formalism: History-Doctrine (1955, 3d ed., 1981); Aage A. Hansen-Löve, Der
russische Formalismus (1978); Robert Louis Jackson and Stephen Rudy, eds., Russian Formalism: A
Retrospective Glance (1985); Fredric Jameson, The Prison-House of Language: A Critical Account of
Structuralism and Russian Formalism (1972); Daniel P. Lucid, ed., Soviet Semiotics: An Anthology (1977);
L. M. O'Toole and Ann Shukman, eds., Formalism: History, Comparison, Genre (1978), Formalist Theory
(1977); Krystyna Pomorska, Russian Formalist Theory and Its Poetic Ambience (1968); Peter Steiner,
Russian Formalism: A Metapoetics (1984); Jurij Striedter, Literary Structure, Evolution, and Value (1989);
Ewa M. Thompson, Russian Formalism and Anglo-American New Criticism (1971); Tzvetan Todorov,
Critique de la critique (1984, Literature and Its Theorists: A Personal View of Twentieth-Century
Criticism, trans. Catherine Porter, 1987); Leon Trotsky, Literature and Revolution (trans. Rose Strunsky,

autonomy, defamiliarization, folklore, literariness, poetic language, socialist realism,
Society for the Study of Poetic Language (OPOIaZ), Symbolism.

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   1. Events

        1915___ Moscow Linguistic Circle founded: Jakobson, Bogatyrev, Vinokur

        1916___ OpoIaz founded in Petrograd: Shkolvskii, Eikhenbaum, Iakubinskii

        1920___ Jakobson leaves Moscow for Prague

        1924___ Major attacks on Formalists by Marxists Trotskii and Lunacharskii

        1928___ Tynianov and others visit Prague. Tynianov presents "On Literary

        1930___ Literaturnaia gazeta publishes the recantation of Formalism: Shklovskii's
                "Monument to a Scientific Error"


   2. Major Works by Major Formalists

           o   Eikhenbaum

               1919___                     "How Gogol's Overcoat Is Made"

               1922___                     "The Melodics of Russian Lyric Verse"

               1922___                     The Young Tolstoi

               1924___                     Lermontov

               1924___                     "On the Question of the Formalists"

               1926___                     "The Theory of the 'Formal' Method"

               1927___                     Literature and Literary Mores

               1928-60___<TDLev Tolstoi


           o   Jakobson

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              1919___ "Khlebnikov's Poetic Language"

              1921___ "On Artistic Realism"

              1921___ Modern Russian Poetry

              1923___ On Czech Versification

              1928___ "Problems in the Study of Literature and Language" (with

              1931___ "On the Generation that Wasted Its Poets"

              1935___ "The Dominant"


          o   Shklovskii

              1914___ "Resurrection of the Word"

              1916___ "On Poetry and Trans-Sense Language"

              1917___ "Art as Technique

              1919___ "The Relation of Devices of Plot Construction to General Devices
                      of Style"

              1919___ "Potebnia"

              1920___ "The Construction of the Tale and Novel"

              1921___ Plot Development

              1921___ Sterne's Tristram Shandy

              1923___ The Knight's Move

              1925___ On the Theory of Prose

              1926___ The Third Factory (autobiography)

              1928___ Material and Style in Lev Tolstory's War and Peace

              1930___ "A Monument to a Scientific Error"


          o   Tynianov

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              1921___ Dostoevsky and Gogol

              1924___ "Literary Fact"

              1924___ The Problem of Verse Language

              1927___ "On Literary Evolution"

              1928___ "Problems in the Study of Literature and Language" (with

              1929___ Archaists and Innovators

                  Periodization and Evolution
   1. Early ("Manifesto") Period, 1915-1919
          o   Two locales: Moscow and Petrograd. The Moscow Linguistic Circle,
              whose principal members were R. Jakobson, P. Bogatyrev, and G. O.
              Vinokur, tended to see problems of literature as an extension of linguistic
              theory. The Petrograd (OpoIaz) group (L. Iakubinskii, V. Shklovskii, B.
              Eikhenbaum, S. Bernshtein) was more involved with questions of literary
              history, including matters of evaluation, than with strictly linguistic issues.

          o   From its inception, F. posits as one of its principal aims the scientific study
              of literature. The scientific examination of literature was conceived in such
              a way as to lead, ultimately, to a proper appreciation of the text's artistic

          o   The insistence on the uniqueness of literature in the realm of verbal
              communication, as well as the need to isolate and define the object of the
              new science, lead the F. into a pursuit of universal or, at least, general
              properties of literature. Hence, Shklovskii's emphasis on the opposition
              between "poetic" and "prosaic" language ("Art as Technique") and the
              choice of the former as the essential property of verbal art.

          o   In opposition to Potebnia's notion of poetry as a language of images,
              Shklovskii posited as a chief function of poetic language its
              "defamiliarizing" effect ("Art").

          o   By rejecting the Neo-Kantian doctrines of the Symbolists, the F. also
              abandoned the opposition between "form" and "content." In this they
              heeded Nietzsche's pronouncement, "The price of being an artist is to
              grasp as content, as the 'thing itself', what all non-artists call 'form'." In
              Russian context, the F. accepted Kruchennykh's view that a new form

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              produces a new content, and that content is conditioned by form. Thus,
              form was, from now on, to have no real correlative.

          o   The F. were attracted to the Futurist experiment with language, for it
              demonstrated how form can be "meaningful" even in the absence of a
              manifest lexical meaning (cf. Jakobson's "Khlebnikov's Poetic Language"
              and Shklovskii's "On Poetry and Trans-Sense Language"). Eikhenbaum
              will say later: "The interest of the Futurists in 'trans-sense language' comes
              of a desire to feel anew just the articulatory-significant element of the
              word-not the word as symbolic sound, but the word as direct articulation
              that has its own real meaning" (Anna Akhmatova: An Attempt at

   2. Middle Period, 1915-1919

          o   A more "practical" orientation came to replace the declarative mode
              prevalent during the first phase of F. The problem became, How to analyze
              "form understood as content"? The major conceptual focus shifted from
              "form" to "technique," i.e. from the question, What makes literature
              "literary"?, to an inquiry as to how this is achieved.

          o   This shift brought to the forefront the study of literary devices: "If literary
              history wants to become a science, it must recognize the artistic device as
              its only concern" (Jakobson, Modern Russian Poetry).

          o   Following the example of Andrei Belyi, the F. distinguished between
              fabula and siuzhet. The former can be defined as "the description of the
              events" (Shklovskii, Sterne's Tristram Shandy), or, more precisely, as the
              representation of the action in its chronological order and causal relations.
              Siuzhet, on the other hand, is the way in which the material of the fabula is
              arranged within the story. Tynianov described siuzhet as the actual
              composition of semantic elements in a text (semanticheskaia gruppirovka;
              "Literary Fact"). Shklovskii made the point that "fabula is merely the
              material for the formation of the plot" (Sterne's Tristram).

          o   All thematic concerns were brought under erasure. A landmark in this
              respect is Shklovskii's "The Relation of Devices…" (1919). He analyzed
              plot as a construct made possible through specific devices. "Motif" was
              reconceptualized to mean the smallest structural unit of the narrative (no
              longer a "situation" that can be traced back to the realm of experience).

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              Gradually, the F. began to see the motif as a "factor" or "constructive
              principle," rather than a "unit" or "element" (Bernshtein, "Aesthetic
              Grounds for a Theory of Declamation"). Eikhenbaum described this shift
              as a transition from a thematic to a compositional concept.

          o   In studies devoted to close analysis of specific works-cf. Shklovskii's
              analysis of Tristram Shandy and Eikhenbaum's reading of Gogol's
              Overcoat-the F. treated the problem of motivation in prose. (Eikhenbaum
              understood plot as consisting of "the interconnection of the motifs by
              means of their motivation.") Theirs was an attempt to ground the narrative
              movement not in the "logic" of the story, but in the very nature of narration
              as a process obeying its own demands: structural, articulatory, auditory,
              etc. Shklovskii spoke of motivation in literature as "motivation for
              craftsmanship" ("The Construction of the Tale and Novel").

          o   In what they called the "laying bare" of the device, the F. saw a paramount
              example of that self-indulgent principle that they considered essential for
              the understanding of artistic narrative.

          o   Having refused to see plot construction as merely adapting itself to the
              outlines of the 'story,' the F. also refused to se poetic form as a vessel that
              readily accepts the semantic material "poured" into it. Thus Jakobson
              spoke of poetry as the "organized coercion of language" (On Czech
              Versification). Similarly to plot construction, prosody was seen not as a
              mere appendage to poetic speech, but as its main structuring factor.
              Tynianov observed that the word in poetry belongs to two "orders" (riady),
              that of rhythm and hat of meaning. Both of them play a role in the
              selection of words in poetry (The Problem of Verse Language).

          o   Gradually, the F. came to accept the view that the various factors in verbal
              art are interrelated. The dominant function of one factor subordinates the
              importance of other factors and deforms them, but seldom completely
              annihilates their functions. At first, they introduced the distinction between
              "significant" and "insignificant" form, or, in Tynianov's terms, between
              "form" and "material," with the stipulation that "material" lies within the
              limits of form, i.e. has a structuring function: "Material is the element of
              form which, because of the foregrounded constructional [factors] has
              become subservient" (The Problem). Hence, the distinction
              "form"/"material" is in no way a reinstantiation of the old dichotomy
              between "form" and "content."

          o   The interaction between "foreground" and "background" introduced a
              dynamic moment previously absent from F. analyses of literary texts.

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          o   The hierarchization of formal elements within the system of the text gave
              rise to the concept of the "dominant" (dominanta), understood as the focal
              formal element of the system, governing its organization and
              subjugating/deforming all other elements. The concept was introduced as
              early as 1922 by Eikhenbaum (The Melodics of Russian Lyric Verse). It
              received its most consistent treatment in Tynianov's "Literary Fact" (1924)
              and, later, in Jakobson's eponymous lecture and in the work of
              Mukarovský's (esp. "Standard Language and Poetic Language," 1932).

   3. III. Late Period, 1924-1930

          o   To the extent to which F. began to analyze the interrelatedness of elements
              within the text, their position can be described as structuralist, although
              they rarely used this label before 1927. The structuralist approach to
              literature ended the one-sidedness of early F. Shklovskii's view that a
              literary work is nothing else than its construction, or the sum-total of all
              devices, proved unsatisfactory. A work of literature is not an accumulation
              of devices but an organized whole, made up of factors of varying
              importance (see above). The semantic material will nearly always have at
              least a minor function. This was the firm position of Tynianov and Brik.
              Bernshtein concluded that a work of art is characterized by wholeness to
              such an extent that it cannot be split up into parts. The work of art is not
              the result of an addition of elements but of factors which, while organizing
              the material into a whole, are constituents of the structure of the work of
              art (Aesthetic Grounds).

          o   The major influence in this turn toward structure was, probably, the F's
              acquaintance with the works of Edmund Husserl and, more likely, with the
              aesthetic treatises of Gustav Shpet (Aesthetic Fragments [Esteticheskie
              fragmenty], 1923). According to the latter, "structure is a concrete
              construction, the various parts of which may change as to dimension and
              even quality, but no part of the whole in potentia can be deleted without
              destruction of the whole."

          o   Tynianov went on to define literature as a "language construction which is
              experienced as a construction: i.e. literature is a dynamic language
              construction" (The Problem). As with Shpet, the word "dynamic" signals
              that the literary text is not an isolated, static fact, but part of a tradition and
              of a communicative process. Each language construction will gradually
              lose its effect and become automatized (a clear echo of Shklovskii's

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              concept of art as a struggle against the force of habituation). If the receiver
              is to experience a language construction as a construction, then the
              constructive factors should be different from those encountered on in
              earlier texts or outside literature. In literature the material must be
              "deformed" rather than formed.

          o   Of course, the deformation can be noticed only against the background of
              literary or social history. This lead Tynianov to advocate an historicist
              approach: whether a certain phenomenon in a linguistic text should be
              considered a literary fact depends on its differential quality
              (diferentsial'noe kachestvo) in relation to the literary or extraliterary series:
              in other words, on its function. Therefore, the immanent study of a literary
              work is a doubtful abstraction and, strictly speaking, impossible ("On
              Literary Evolution").

          o   The literary work must be related to the literary system. But, in addition,
              the isolated study of the literary system and its evolution, or of the
              succession of literary series is correlated with adjacent cultural, behavioral,
              and social series which are indirectly, through the intermediary of
              language, related to it.

          o   The shift to a more historicist perspective was negotiated, in part, via
              Saussure's dichotomy of "synchronic"/"diachronic" approaches, which
              allowed for a systematic investigation of historically-bound phenomena:
              "The history of a system is, in turn, a system" (Tynianov and Jakobson,
              "Problems in the Study of Language"). Following Saussure's distinction,
              the F. formulated their opposition between "system" and "evolution," only
              to suspend it with the assertion that "every system… exists as an
              evolution, whereas evolution is inescapably of a systematic nature"

          o   Having begun as an isolated, self-sufficient, entity, the artistic work, in the
              understanding of the Russian F. was-not without the external pressure of
              various Marxist critiques-ultimately "opened" to what lies outside of art. In
              1929 Eikhenbaum declared that the main issue in the study of literature is
              the tracing of the connections and interrelations between literary and extra-
              literary facts ("Literary Environment"). Three years earlier, Shklovskii had
              already implicitly renounced his earlier views: "[C]hanges in art can and
              do occur on account of extra-aesthetic factors, whether because a given
              language was influenced by another…or because a new social demand has
              arisen (The Third Factory). In "A Monument to a Scientific Error," this
              renunciation became explicit.

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Russian Formalism.
1.    A brief history of Russian Formalism.
        1.1.Literary criticism in Russia before Russian Formalism.

        The Formalists quite rightly thought that literary criticism was overburdened
        with socio-political issues. In the late nineteenth century literature served as a
        platform for debate about other concerns and was not investigated per se. Indeed
        literature was one of the principal media of discussion for political and
        philosophical issues. Consequently literary criticism was almost exclusively the
        guarded territory of journalism. Great critics of the nineteenth century (like
        Dobrolioubov) were in fact journalists. Literary criticism was not considered an
        academic activity. In fact if we trust Eikhenbaum the academy seems to have
        been quite unconcerned about these issues.

             “Before the appearance of the Formalists, academic research, quite ignorant of
             theoretical problems, made use of antiquated aesthetic, psychological, and
             historical ‘axioms’ and had so lost sight of its proper subject that its very
             existence as a science had become illusory. There was almost no struggle
             between the Formalists and the Academicians, not because the Formalists had
             broken in the door (there were no doors), but because we found an open passage-
             way instead of a fortress.” (Boris Eikhenbaum, “The Theory of the ‘Formal
             Method’”, 105)

        Russian Formalism also appears as a reaction against Symbolism and Acmeism
        which were considered elitist in their concern.


        1.2.The birth of Russian Formalism.

        Formalism emerged from the discussions between two small groups of students,
        the OPOJAZ group in St-Petersburg and the Moscow Linguistic Circle
        (gravitating around Roman Jakobson.) OPOJAZ is a kind of acronym for The
        Society for the Study of Poetic Language. OPOJAZ included all the major
        Formalists, Viktor Shklovsky, Boris Eikhenbaum, Osip Brik and Yury
        Tynianov. Russian Formalism later became very close to Futurism, sharing the
        same interest for the phonic structure of the verse and the same opposition to
        Symbolism and Realism.

        René Wellek identifies three periods in Russian Formalism (A History of
        Modern Criticism: 1750-1950, vol.7, 319):

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         The early period of self-definition (1916-1921): the prevailing tone is
        polemical as the movement sets itself off sharply from its predecessors. The
        main focus of attention is on poetic language and prose composition.

         The middle period of expansion and consolidation (1921-1928): all literary
        problems are re-examined. The major concern is now literary history.

         The period of dissolution and accommodation (1928-1935): on the one hand
        there is political pressure but on the other hand there is a shift in interest among
        the Formalists themselves.


        1.3.The historical context.

        Russian Formalism holds a special place in critical theory. Not only did it stand
        up as a radical break from the tradition and the contemporary practice of
        literature and literary criticism but it was also cut off by the historical turmoil of
        the 1917 Revolution and its far-reaching aftermath.

        It shares with Futurism, with which Russian Formalism was closely associated,
        a radical opposition to Symbolism as well as Realism.


        1.4.Russian Formalism and Futurism.

        Russian Formalism is rather closely linked to the futuristic movement. Futurism
        was one of many avant-garde movements which emerged in the wake of the
        1905 Revolution (one of its effect being a loosening of censorship). Poets of
        varying fame and talent formed small groups which tended to disintegrate faster
        than they were formed and new ones would soon emerge. But the term
        “Futurism” “has become internationally accepted as a designation for a major
        aspect of the Russian avant-garde.” (René Wellek, A History of Modern
        Criticism: 1750-1950, 261).

        The main characteristic of Futurism is its opposition to poetry and to some
        extent painting as they were conceived of and practised in the nineteenth
        century. In fact the Futurists’ “artistic efforts before the First World War were
        directed against ‘decadent’ bourgeois culture and especially against the
        anguished soul-searching of the Symbolist movement in poetry and the visual
        arts.” (Raman Selden, A Reader’s Guide..., 8) Futurism is a radical movement
        which intended to do away with the past. On the one hand the futurists carried
        out daring experiments with the Russian language in their attempt to create a
        new form of poetry, exploiting the sound texture of words. On the other hand
        the movement tends to remain encapsulated in a strongly oppositional string of

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        Some Futurist slogans…

        “Only we are the face of our time. The horn of time
        trumpets through us and the art of the world.”
                                                  (quoted in Wellek, 262)

        “Throw Pushkin, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy and the
        rest overboard the ship of modernity!”
                                                  (quoted in Wellek, 262)

        Eugene Oneguine would have been written even if
        Pushkin had not existed…
        Some of the major Futurists are Vladimir Mayakovsky, Victor Khlebnikov,
        Aleksey Kruchenykh and David Burlyuk.

2.    What is Russian Formalism?
        2.1.“Formalism” and the “Formal method.”

        The term “Formalism” was coined by opponents to the movement and has
        become the name tag for it. The Formalists themselves have tended to see it as
        reductive and have especially been opposed to references to the “Formal
        method” as they claim to have precisely not had a dogmatic approach to
        literature. On the contrary, they have tried to keep a dynamic and evolutionary
        attitude to literature. Theirs is not a methodology but a science of literature.


        2.2.The purpose of Russian Formalism.

        The purpose of Russian Formalism is “to put literary studies on an independent
        footing, and to make the study of literature an autonomous and specific
        discipline.” (Ann Jefferson, “Russian Formalism”, 25). In fact the Formalists
        advocate a scientific attitude towards literature in strong opposition to the

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        journalistic dilettantism of the previous century. As Boris Eikhenbaum puts it,
        “we =the Formalists are characterized only by the attempt to create an
        independent science of literature which studies specifically literary material.”
        (“The Theory of the ‘Formal Method’”, 103) The Formalists insist that their
        theory is neither a methodology nor an aesthetic.Their first task is necessarily an
        attempt to define clearly the object studied, that is literature.

3.    Russian Formalism in 11 definitions.
        LITERARINESS. The Formalists exclude the non-literary from literature, seing
        life and art as mutual opposites. The Formalist definition of literature is
        differential, oppositional. Literature is constituted by what differentiates it from
        other orders of facts. And what differentiates literature from non-literature is its


        POETIC VS. EVERYDAY LANGUAGE. Sound is the key difference between
        poetic language and everyday usage. The autonomy of the poetic word is to be
        achieved through sound texture. This will attract attention to the word itself.
        Jakobson contends that “poetic form is the organized coercion of language.”
        (Boris Eikhenbaum, “The Theory of the ‘Formal Method’”, 127) Surprisingly
        enough the Formalists position themselves in an Aristotelian tradition in which
        “poetic language must appear strange and wonderful.” (Shklovsky, “Art as
        Technique”, 22) Leo Jakubinsky demonstrates that poetic language is
        “roughened”. This “roughening” is both phonetic and rhythmic. Behind the
        notion of “roughened” language lurks the idea of defamiliarisation.

             “Should the disordering of rhythm become a convention, it would be ineffective
             as a device for the roughening of language.” (Shklovsky, “Art as Technique”,


        DEFAMILIARISATION (or “making strange”). Shklovsky thinks that art
        defamiliarises things that have become habitual or automatic (through the
        process of automatisation). In a way art is a perspective on things, a way to see
        things. Form becomes a focus of Formalist attention deriving directly from their
        preoccupation with the specificity of literariness. The object in itself is not
        important. The object is merely a pretext for art.

             “[A]rt … exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. 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 and length of perception because the process

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             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.”
             (Shklovsky, “Art as Technique”, 12)


        AUTOMATISATION. This is the logical corollary of defamiliarisation.
        Automatisation is the inevitable process by which any artistic object becomes
        habitual, banal and loses its power as an artistic object. Automatised devices are
        the necessary background against which new or renewed devices can stand out
        as non-ordinary. Thus automatisation and defamiliarisation provide a new and
        dynamic definition of the relationship between form and content in terms of
        material and device.


        DEVICE. A device is a compositional feature of the literary work. Some are
        “foregrounded” or “made strange” (see defamiliarisation) in order to renew
        artistic perception while others are automatised, i.e. they have become habitual.


        FUNCTION. This is the necessary complement of the device. The device
        becomes automatised, whereas the function doesn’t. In other words a device is
        defamiliarising not by its mere existence but by virtue of its function.


        MATERIAL/DEVICE VS. CONTENT/FORM. Russian Formalism reacted
        against the deeply-rooted notion that content is superior to form which is merely
        seen as a recipient. In the first phase of Russian Formalism form is synonymous
        to literariness and thus is granted an essential status in the definition of
        literature: actually it is what made literature literature. However, the later view
        of Russian Formalism takes into account the automatisation of the perception of
        literary devices and thus the opposition material/device tends to collapse. An
        automatised or habitual device has more to do with material than with form.
        “The dynamic principle implied in the material/device distinction means that
        elements of form itself can be included in the concept of material.” (Ann
        Jefferson, “Russian Formalism”, 36).


        FABULA (or “story”). A term belonging to the study of prose, fabula designates
        the raw material which will be processed to become a narrative. The story is the
        purely chronological series of events, which will be recounted, in the order in
        which they took place, which is not necessarily the order of the narration. The
        fabula will be organised into siuzhet to become a narrative.

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        SIUZHET (or “plot”). The siuzhet is the narrative counterpart of the fabula or
        story before it is being told and like fabula refers to prose. The siuzhet is purely
        literary. It is an artistic construct, whereas fabula is the chronological string of
        events. Siuzhet organises fabula using delays, digressions, chronological
        disruptions, etc. In fact defamiliarisation is the key concept: the siuzhet is the
        defamiliarising narrative version of the fabula.


        THE PROBLEM OF REALITY: one of the axiomatic principles of Russian
        Formalism is that literature is derived from other literatures and not from any
        non-literary source. (Revealingly enough, the figure of the author is
        desacralised: he/she is relegated to the rank of craftsman merely arranging pre-
        existing material in an innovative way.)

             “The renewed perception of formal devices is an essential aspect of literariness,
             and the criterion of verisimilitude is irrelevant to the Formalist project. The
             Formalists evaluate literary form for its perceptibility and not for its mimetic
             capacity.” (Ann Jefferson, “Russian Formalism”, 30)

        The subtext is that what literature says is not really important; what is
        primordial is how literature says it. In fact the issue of meaning is central to
        Medvedev/Bakhtin’s critique of Russian Formalism.


        THE PROBLEM OF LITERARY HISTORY. As René Wellek puts it:
        “Formalism was at first deliberately and definitely antihistorical.” (A History of
        Modern Criticism: 1750-1950, 323). However, as a consequence of the
        refinement of the Formalist approach, a theory of literary evolution had to be
        elaborated to account for the historical dimension of literature. For the
        Formalists literary history entails a distinction between automatized and
        perceptible forms within literature itself.

             “Literariness is a product of the deformation of the canonised or automatised
             elements, in other words of precisely those factors which constitute a tradition.
             Form is made perceptible against a background of existing literary form, and the
             function of a device is determined not just by the structural hierarchy of a
             particular work, but by its place in the literary system as a whole. The principle
             of defamiliarisation simultaneoulsy undoes the idea of tradition and reintroduces
             an historical dimension in the relationship between individual literary device and
             the overall system. Discontinuity replaces continuity as the basis of historical
             progression.” (Ann Jefferson, “Russian Formalism”, 41).

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4.      The    Critique  of Russian Formalism,                                 based   on
        Medvedev/Bakhtin’s The Formal Method                                  in Literary
        4.1.The problem of an apophatic approach.

        The Russian Formalists base their definition of literature on negation.
        Medvedev/Bakhtin affirms that “[t]here is not a single scientific abstraction
        which exists by means of bare negation.” Quite on the contrary, “[i]n every
        scientific abstraction, negation is dialectically joined with assertion.”
        (Medvedev/Bakhtin, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, 91).

        Similarly, the Formalists define poetic language in opposition with everyday
        language. If for example communication is the most essential element of
        everyday language, then poetic language is totally devoid of communicative
        purposes. In fact poetic language becomes the “converse” of everyday language.
        In denying the word its full meaning, the Formalists not only deprive themselves
        of all possibility of progress, but also fall back into dogma. (Medvedev/Bakhtin,
        The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, 91, passim)


        4.2.Nihilistic tendency.

        Medvedev/Bakhtin argues that the basic Formalist concepts of the early period,
        such as defamiliarisation, device, material all partake of a nihilistic tendency
        because the novelty and strangeness of the word originates in the loss of its
        previous meaning and not in the enrichment of the word with a new and more
        constructive meaning.

        Medvedev/Bakhtin attacks this by reintroducing the notion of “moral value.”

             “Thus, an object is not made strange for its own sake, in order that it be felt, in
             order to ‘make a stone stony,’ but for the sake of something else, a moral value,
             which against this background stands out all the more sharply and vividly
             precisely as a moral value.” (Medvedev/Bakhtin, The Formal Method in Literary
             Scholarship, 60) ______________________________________

        4.3.The nature of poetic language.

        In Medvedev/Bakhtin’s opinion Russian Formalism is wrong in conceiving
        poetic language as a dialect, that is more or less as a different language. On the
        contrary what differentiates poetic language from everyday use is “poetic

             “Language acquires poetic characteristics only in the concrete poetic
             construction. These characteristics do not belong to language in its linguistic

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             capacity, but to the construction, whatever its form may be. The most elementary
             everyday utterance or apt expression may be perceived artistically in certain
             circumstances. Even an individual word may be perceived as a poetic utterance.”
             (Medvedev/Bakhtin, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, 84)


        4.4.Material, device, siuzhet and fabula: the problem of form and content.

        Even if the relationship between material and device is dynamic, material and
        device are “completely determined by their polemical juxtaposition to ‘content’
        and ‘form’.” (Medvedev/Bakhtin, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship,
        79) In fact they become their “converse.” By analogy “siuzhet” and “fabula” as
        elements of poetic construction become mere reflections of the basic opposition
        on which rests much of Russian Formalism: poetic vs. everyday language.

             “[E]very element of the story [=”fabula”], i.e. of the event being related, is only
             significant to the extent that it motivates some constructive device, some object
             of the tale itself, which is taken as a self-valuable whole independent of the event
             being narrated.
             From here we arrive at an important basic principle of Formalism: the material is
             the motivation of the constructive device. And this device is an end in itself.
             If we look closely at this position, we see that it is the converse of the assertion
             which the Formalists began by criticising. According to the usual, naïve point of
             view, which was formed on a realistic basis, the content of the work, i.e., the
             object of the narration [=”fabula”], was an end in itself and the narrative devices
             were only technical, auxiliary means to that end. The Formalists turned this
             position upside down by reversing its elements.
             But they retained in toto the completely inadmissible division of the work into
             technical, auxiliary elements and self-directed elements.” (Medvedev/Bakhtin,
             The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, 107)

        4.5.The problem of meaning.

        In Medvedev/Bakhtin’s view conceiving meaning only on the level of poetic
        construction is erroneous. Indeed, if the word in itself does not make sense and
        if the poetic work is justifiable only in terms of defamiliarisation-
        automatisation, meaning only emerges on the level of poetic construction.

        On the contrary, for Medvedev/Bakhtin the material presence of the word must
        be linked with intrinsic ideological meaning. This connection consists in social
        evaluation. Thus Medvedev/Bakhtin reconciles poetic and everyday language.
        (Medvedev/Bakhtin, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, 118-9,


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        4.6.The problem of reality.

        When the Formalists oppose life and art categorically, they are as mistaken as
        Russian criticism of the time which takes the representation of life for the actual
        reality of life (Medvedev/Bakhtin, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship,
        18, passim, for the diagnosis of Russian criticism and not for connecting it to the
        Formalist conception of life and art.). Indeed, they fail to see the specificity of
        literature among the other intellectual activities, in that literature both reflects
        other intellectual domains and is a particular intellectual activity itself
        (Medvedev/Bakhtin, The Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, 18, passim).

             “It limited literature to reflection alone; that is, it lowered it to the status of a
             simple servant and transmitter of other ideologies, almost completely ignoring
             the independently meaningful reality of the literary work, its ideological
             independence and originality.” (Medvedev/Bakhtin, The Formal Method in
             Literary Scholarship, 18)


        4.7.The real problem of literary evolution.

        The alternation of automatised and defamiliarised works of literature as the
        dynamic of literary evolution fails to explain why a particular work comes after
        another and not before and more importantly does not account for the creation
        of new works. Indeed, if we push this argument to its extreme, literary history
        could be constituted of the endless alternation of the same two works.
        Medvedev/Bakhtin attacks this “law of ‘automatisation-perceptibility’” by
        saying that it is a very general psychic law “not at all connected with the specific
        nature of literature.” (Medvedev/Bakhtin, The Formal Method in Literary
        Scholarship, 166) Therefore “[l]iterary evolution, in the Formalist conception, is
        not an immanently literary phenomenon.” (Medvedev/Bakhtin, The Formal
        Method in Literary Scholarship, 166)

5.      The legacy of Russian Formalism to twentieth century literary
        5.1. A scientific approach to literature: by attempting to define clearly its
        subject matter, Russian Formalism granted the study of literature the status of a


        5.2. A reevaluation of the literary work: “they placed the study of the actual
        work of literature at the centre of scholarship and relegated biographical,

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        psychological, and sociological studies to its periphery.” (René Wellek, A
        History of Modern Criticism: 1750-1950, vol.7, 324)


        5.3. An awareness of the problematic dichotomy of “content” and “form”:
        although they failed to overcome the dichotomy of “content” and “form”, they
        defined a dynamic relationship between “material” and “device.”


        5.4. A focus on sound patterns: Russian Formalism is a break-through as far as
        examining technical and linguistic features of the literary work is concerned.


        5.5. A shift of attention onto reading processes: Russian Formalism
        demystifies the figure of the author to the point of considering him/her
        secondary to the the work of literature. This results in the emergence of the
        reader as participant in the work.

6. Bibliography.

        EIKHENBAUM, Boris, “The Theory of the ‘Formal Method’”, In Russian
             Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, transl. Lee T. Lemon and Marion J.
             Reis (University of Nebraska P, 1965), 99-139.

        JEFFERSON, Ann, “Russian Formalism”, In Modern Literary Theory: A
             Comparative Introduction, eds. Ann Jefferson and David Robey
             (B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1986), 24-45.

        MEDVEDEV, Pavel N./BAKHTIN, Mikhail M., The Formal Method in
            Literary Scholarship: A Critical Introduction to Sociological Poetics,
            transl. Albert J. Wehrle, (The Johns Hopkins UP, 1978), 191pp.

        NIVAT, Georges. Russie-Europe, la fin du schisme: études littéraires et
             politiques (L’Age d’homme, 1993), 810pp.

        SELDEN, Raman, A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory, 2nd ed.
             (Harverster Wheatsheaf, 1989), 159pp.

Karine Zbinden      Thank you for acknowledging your source.                    23
        SHKLOVSKY, Victor, ”Art as Technique”, In Russian Formalist Criticism:
             Four Essays, transl. Lee T. Lemon and Marion J. Reis (University of
             Nebraska P, 1965), 3-24.

        WELLEK, René, A History of Modern Criticism 1750-1950 in Eight Volumes,
            vol. 7: “German, Russian, and Eastern European Criticism, 1900-1950”
            (Yale UP, 1991) 458pp.

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