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January 28, 2007

What is Literature?

"The Formalists started out be seeing the literary work as a more or less arbirtraray assemblage of 'devices', and only later came to see these devices as interrelated elements or 'functions' within a total textual system."

To the Formalists, the application of linguistics to the study of literature was essential. They passed over the 'content' and studied far into the 'form'. The content was the motivation of form. This then helps explain why the Formalists started out seeing literary works with an assembly of devices and then finally seeing that the devices intertwined with functions within the story.
Devices were the content of the of stories; however, the functions of the devices help build the form within the piece of literature.

Earlier in the reading, the author came up with an idea that maybe "literature is not whether it is fiction or 'imaginative', but because of the language in peculiar ways." The Formalists were not necessarily out to define literature, but 'literariness'. Literariness is the special uses of language that could be found not only in literary texts but also in many places outside them. Special uses of language could be rhythm, syntax, rhyme, metaphor, similie and well as narrative techniques. These special usages of language also help define the form of the literary text.

It seems that the language, form, devices and literariness all come together to to show how the Formalists went from content to form and devices to device interrelated with function.

Posted by Denamarie at January 28, 2007 3:38 PM

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It's interesting to me that whatever we say can be analyzed differently and labeled because of language. In other countries, different expressions and phrases can devise whole new meanings of words, thus making things more even more complex. You have a really good grasp on the way Formalists looked at literature.

Posted by: Erin at January 29, 2007 10:08 AM


Do you think the Formalists were coverted to a more traditional form of criticism because their approach was not receiving much credence from the established critics? I wonder if they were pressured into changing their original paradigm of literary criticism.

Posted by: Dave Moio at January 31, 2007 5:27 PM

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