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The Difference Between Fabula and Sujet According to the Russian Formalists College

Russian Formalism was a school of literary thought which emerged in Russia during the 1910’s. Members of this movement attempted to study literary language and literature according to scientific methods, and Peter Brooks states that they focussed on “calling attention to the material and the means of its making, showing how a given work is put together”[1]. According to Krystyna Pomorska, the Russian Formalists “explored several areas in an entirely new way…[and] undertook…an analysis of prose encompassing all of its structural components”[2]. One of the structural aspects of literature which came under Formalist analysis was the way in which the narrative events are presented. Pomorska states that “they showed sujet (plot) and fabula (storyline) as related but not at all identical factors”. In this essay, I will outline the differences between these two terms, using examples from both contemporary and classic literature.

One of the key aims of the Russian Formalist movement was to distinguish systematically between that which was art, and that which was not. The influential Russian Formalist Victor Shklovsky outlined the Russian Formalist view of art by saying that “In a narrow sense we shall call a work artistic if it has...

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