An Analysis of Formalism, Research Paper Sample

Published: 2022-03-09
An Analysis of Formalism, Research Paper Sample
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Literature
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 964 words
9 min read

Formalism theory is one of the many literary approaches used in interpreting and formulating a literature piece with the intent of making sense to the world. Literary methods purpose to help affirm one perspective and creating significance to what one gather in a work of literature. Also, literary criticism gives room for diverse opinions and views on text, and in the process richness in writing is upheld. Formalism theory focuses mainly on the featured feature exclusively in a document without capturing the historical and biographical context highlighted (Dobie 21). In this study, the origin, application, and theorist of formalism will be examined to give a better understanding of what formalism entails.

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Formalism Theory

Formalism theory has its foundation in the hay days of the 1920s, and the argument is said to have predominately originated from Russia during the pre and post-revolutionary days. However, separate research shows that formalism had also begun to develop independently in America in the same era, though it did not gain much growth (Selden and Widdowson 25). Russian linguistic scholars Shklovsky together with the Moscow linguistic group among other linguistic scholars can be accredited for bringing the theory to light. The scholar's motivation to pursue the formalism literary criticism was driven by their intent to examine the philosophical and theoretical aspects that come along with language and what it refers. For example, the objects and things. Traditionally, arguments were based and subjected to philosophical, psychological and sociological views and this narrowed people's perspective, to break away from the limited perspective, scholars proposed on the need to study literature work as an individual piece (Dobie, 36). In the study of literature as a literary work itself, formal components and other constituents were to be examined. The move led to study of literature from an artistic and literary point of view. The use of formalism in literature was artistically approached, making literature studies more scientific.

Application of Formalism

Formalism is also referred to as new criticism, which is an approach that explores a piece of literature work from an artistic point of view. It focuses on the richness of text regarding techniques, forms, style, and language (Theile, and Tredennick, eds 60). The formalist theorists believe that a literary work can be examined in isolation of cultural, social and historical influence and be examined as a whole. The formalist theory also places more emphasis on techniques and structure of the text and less concern on context and content. Since formalism does not exist as the only critical method, literature department advocate for use if valid examples from writing and art since it is the only logical way to examine a text. Application of other critical theories come last after the primary text content and context is examined. Therefore, when using formalism approach to study writing, one has to analyze the grammar, logical connection and rhetoric's in an artwork (Dobie 47).

Formalist view any literature work as an art constructed to manipulate and evoke specific responses, therefore often you find formalist prefer the medium over form or content (Selden and Widdowson 29). Any leader examining a literature text is likely to experience new sensation either intended consciously or unconsciously. The new impression is driven by the creative techniques applied by the author such as symbolism, metaphors, styles, tone, and figurative language among other which are all designed to create e or signify meaning. The ability to use the grammar of design in a text which entails metaphors, rhetoric, tone, and style among other intrinsic feature is viewed from a formalist stand as an art applied by authors to deliver an intended aesthetic effect.

Theorists Of Formalism


Formalism is founded on two formalist theories which are defamiliarization and new criticism. Defamiliarization was a technique proposed by Shklovsky. This advanced art technique is used as a device to show how language is applied in a manner that the familiar and usual objects are made to appear different (Selden and Widdowson 31). Word applied in a literature work acquire the power to affect the leader's perception creating a difference in poetic, and the general languages. According to Mukarovsky and Shklovsky in their description of literature and its literariness, literature uses it foregrounding expressions to disrupt the ordinary words written and spoken, making writing appear strange (Theile, and Tredennick, eds 96). The process is made possible by altering the conventional views and at the same time unconsciously subdue the reader to new perspectives and fresh sensation. Difaramilialiaztaion keeps the audience involved and critically analyzing a literary art. This method was also applied by Bertolt Brecht in the epic theatre as a way to keep the passive audience active, by critically examining the technique employed in the theater and as well in the real world.

New Criticism

According to Hickman and McIntyre (16), new criticism was founded from the American writers in the 1930s and among the famous founders are Bertolt Brecht and John Ranson among others English scholar. New critical formalism stresses more on the internal aspects of a text and ignores all external influences of a document. A literary text when presented, the readers are not expected to pay attention to the author history and reputation nor should the reader pay attention to his or her perception of the work (Hickman and McIntyre 43). The reader should, therefore, strictly analyze the text itself. Close reading of the text is required as one capitalize on the plot, theme, and structure criticizing and deducting the ultimate hidden meaning.


Dobie, Ann B. Theory into practice: an introduction to literary criticism. Cengage learning, 2011.

Theile, Verena, and Linda Tredennick, eds. New formalisms and literary theory. Springer, 2013.

Hickman, Miranda B., and John D. McIntyre. Rereading the new criticism. The Ohio State University Press, 2012.

Selden, Raman, Peter Brooker, and Peter Widdowson. A reader's guide to contemporary literary theory. Taylor & Francis, 2016.

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