Essay about Formalism: First-person Narrative and Old Man

Submitted By gdog2789
Words: 4198
Pages: 17

Intro- What is Formalism?
So, as it mentions within the word itself, Formalsim focuses primarily on the “form” of literary work. Formalism focuses on analysing the structure and organization of ONLY the work. In other words, formalist views treat literary work as a closed unit, exempt from any other interpretation but the work itself. The text’s formal elements are also analysed (which are the, figurative language, language structures and literary techniques in the work). Formal elements basically give the work meaning and effect as they contribute to the main structure of the work (plot, theme, conflict, protagonist, antagonist, setting, point of view). Therefore it completely disregards external factors related to examining a work, and only interprets what is present in the context. So for example formalism would not take into consideration, biographical, historical, social, cultural aspects and background of author.
The central goal of formalism is therefore to understand the structure of the work, whilst analysing the many uses of language which contribute to the effect of connecting or enhancing certain central messages intended by the work.
The central question of formalism is not who, what, where, when or why. Instead, the central question equates to how- how the context comes to mean what it means, and how the context is communicated.

Prior to formalism, there were only two literary theories present: historical theory and psychological theory. Formalism primarily started in Russia around the 1900’s, hence the term Russian formalism was given before. Russian Formalism refers to two specific works: the work of the Society for the Study of Poetic Language founded in 1916 mainly by Viktor Shklovsy along with a few of his other colleagues. And also the work of the Moscow Linguistic Circle which was founded in 1914 by Roman Jackobson. During this time there was a shift from approaching literature morally to a more scientific basis and Russian formalists focused on “literariness” which they believed could be found through form rather than content discussed in the context. Viktor Shklovsy’s approach of “defmailiarization” became popular. It meant “to make strange” and it’s concept was to create a new idea on an already present idea, to view perspective in different innovative ways. This also forced the reader to slow down and engage with the text more strenuously. Like mentioned in the intro, the origin of formalism begun so with the belief that the form, organization and literary devices within the text can be viewed in isolation to analyse a certain work.
New criticism (today also otherwise known as formalism) developed roughly around the 1920’s and continues to exist today. New criticism developed through Anglo-American traditions in, obviously, America. New criticism shared the same views as formalism, in that the discovery of how a literature functioned was and could be interpreted through the context of the work. It was developed through a movement started by John Crowe Ransom as he wrote a book called The New Criticism. Essay’s by T.S. Eliot also developed New Criticism and this school emphasized “close reading”. Strengths
There are actually many strengths found in this approach, which we readily apply today as well.
1) No research/additional knowledge required – we do not need to know anything more, and all we have to know is interpreting the context itself, without external considerations. So as we mentioned earlier, you would not need to