Formalist Literary Criticism
Russian Formalism is driven by an interest in renewing or revitalizing the emotional experience of art through experiments with form. Art is not a mode of thought, but rather a way of feeling. Aesthetic shortcuts employed by artists may more effectively communicate a thought, but they also corrupt and ultimately destroy the artistic experience as well. Critics like Victor Shlovsky want to renew an audience’s awareness of the ordinary, to make it extraordinary. “The purpose of art is to impart sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known.
..Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important” (741). Because old forms have become stagnant, artists must strive to invent new strategies to slow the reader down, to disorient, or defamiliarize him or her. At all costs, art must avoid the audience being able to make sense of the whole aesthetic experience from a small selection of details. Formalists place an ethical duty on the shoulders of the artist to innovate and roughen poetic language.
It is the journey through the text and not arriving at its ultimate destination which makes literature valuable and important.
Shlovsky, Victor. “Art as Technique” The Critical Tradition. Ed., David H. Richter, New York: St.
Martin’s Press, 1989. .