Ulysses

The Limits of Formalism in Defining Literariness College

Russian formalism, as a movement, arose to prominence in a time of great artistic change, where experimentation and the avant-garde rose to the forefront of literature, and introduced new narrative structures and styles. Russian formalism can therefore be interpreted as a reaction to the chaotic literature of its time, the early Twentieth-Century, especially in how it attempted to define the notion of literariness through a more modernised, scientific method. The Formalists attempted to contain literature, to provide it, through a more objective, scientific method, with set rules and parameters that provided it order and form. Literariness, for the Formalists, was something that was achieved through the use of a certain method in a text, and was not an innate quality given to any piece of fiction, prose or poetry.

It could be argued, however, that though Russian formalism provided an ordered method through which to understand the chaotic literature of its time, this method is unable to fully comprehend literariness. By identifying literature through a fixed definition, Russian formalism disregards several genres of what is considered canon literature, and makes literature a form of art based solely on abstract methods and...

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