The Formalities of Formalism
From Literary Theory:
"The Formalists started out by seeing the literary work as a more or less arbitrary assemblage of 'devices', and only later came to see these devices as interrelated elements or 'functions' within a total textual system. 'Devices' including sound, imagery, rhythm, syntax, metre, rhyme, narrative techniques, in fact the whole stock of formal literary elements..." (Eagleton 3)
This section of the text helped me understand, or I think it did anyway, what the Formalists are all about, what makes them tick. It seems that Formalists are comcerned with the words themselves, not the story or characters. The literature itself is secondary, only a coral reef if you will, made up of thousands of smaller organisms that give it a semblance of one giant mass. The divers can come and check out the reef, seeing all the pretty colors and fish, but not realize the real composition, what gives the reef its shape. The reader of a piece of literature is like the diver, examining the work and seeing the plot, but many times missing the building blocks that make the story, the words. This focus on the words themselves, rather than the story, allows the reader to see what it was about the author's word choice and use of literary devices works for the story and allows it to be effective. The formalists, like biologists, like to break down the whole into pieces, dissect it, to see exactly how and why the work has a certain desired effect.
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