Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Russian Formalists or American New Criticism… Which do you prefer?

Russian Formalism and American New Criticism are both ways in which one is able to look at a literary work, but in very different ways. Prior to the formalist movements in the late twentieth century, Russian formalism and American New Criticism was the study of literature that was concerned with everything about literature except language, from the historical context of a literary work to the biography of its author. The Russian Formalists were interested both in describing the general characteristics of literary language and in analyzing the specific devices or modes of operation for such language. Their most famous claim was that literary language consists of an act of defamiliarization. The Russian Formalist movement focuses more on the qualities of narrative/poetic language (literary devices) therefore, makes the approach a scientific and rational one. For literature to be literature it must constantly defamiliarize the familiar, and the only way to do that is through the use of devices.

However, the American new Criticism is anti-scientific and interested in the non-rational dimension of art. Two very well known terms are a part of a new critical legacy- intentional fallacy and the affective fallacy. According to the intentional fallacy, meaning resides in the verbal design of a literary work, not in statements regarding his/her intention that the author might make. According to the affective fallacy- the subjective effects or emotional reactions a work provokes in readers are irrelevant to the study of the verbal object itself, since its objective structure alone contains the meaning of the work. This approach informed the study of literature with a concern for traditional religious and aesthetic values of a kind being displaced by science.

Taking into account each approach and what their focuses are within literary texts and applying that to modern life, it is safe to say that critics in this day and time use the American New Criticism more than the Russian Formalist approach. We tend to be more captivated by the universal truth rather than the brilliance of technique in a work. Everything we see and breath is entertainment. One can say that this massive industry and the ideas that come along with it is a way in which to become more utopian- like. If we no longer take notice of the structure of things what else is there really that’s valuable? Are you not utterly disgusted of the constant defamiliarization of the same mass product in different forms? I know I am…

Works Cited

Rivkin, Julie and Ryan, Michael. "Introduction: Formalist." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Second Ed. Julie Rivkin & Michael Ryan, MA: Blackwell Publisihing Ltd. 2004. 3-6. Print.

No comments:

Post a Comment