Russian Formalism - Literary Essay Sample

Published: 2019-10-15
Russian Formalism - Literary Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Literature
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1889 words
16 min read

Russian formalism is a type of literary theory that traces its origin to Moscow. It started in the early decade of the twentieth century and was a reaction to the mystification literature that was evident in many parts of Europe. The movement consists of works of many soviet and Russian scholars such as Roman Jakobson, Yuri Tynianov, Viktor Shklovsky, and Grigory Vinokur. These researchers revolutionized the literary criticism between 1914 and 1930. They did this by establishing the poetic language in the study of literature. The movement falls into three broad periods. The first one began in 1916-1921 where the formalists focused on poetic language and prose. The second was from 1921-1928 and the formalists tried to examine the literary problems. The last one was from 1928-1935 when the movement was disintegrated (Ping, 2013).

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Russian formalism exercised a significant influence on some thinkers such as Yuri Lotman, Mikhail and Yuri and structuralism. The members of this movement are considered as the founders of the contemporary literary criticism. This movement changed the way in which literature ought to be understood. Before Russian formalism, writing was interpreted based on its ideological features, a reflection of the mentality of the author, and its historical interest. Formalism made the artistic strategies of the author, literary text, and the focus of its study. The result of this movement the appreciation of creative art (Galan & Steiner, 1985)

This movement is widely known for its emphasis on the functional role of the literary devices and its initial conception of literary history. The Russian formalists advocated for the use of scientific method when studying the poetic language (Ping, 2013). The formalists focused on the distinguishing features of literature and the aesthetic features of imaginative writing. The formalist study of literate is composed of two principles. The first one is the literature itself or the features that differentiate it from other human activities. The second characteristic is the literary facts

The Formalists believed that the poetic language is autonomous and is usually an object of study for the literary criticism. The initial attempt consisted in defining the properties that were specific to poetry or prose decipherable by their artfulness and then analyzing them as such. The approach that was advocated by the formalists had numerous ideas (Galan & Steiner, 1985). First, the objective was to produce literature that was supposed to be independent and factual, and this was designated by the term poetics. Secondly, the approach claimed that since literature was made of language, linguistics would act as the first component of the science of literature. The third idea was that literature was independent and from external conditions. That is to mean that literary language is discrete from the ordinary use of language. Fourthly, literature has its roots, history of formal structures and innovation and thus, it is determined by the material or external history (Ping, 2013). Lastly, what a work of art says cannot be separated from how the literary work says it and therefore, the form and the structure of any work of art is an integral part of the content of any piece of writing.

This movement is highly renowned for placing literature at the center and consigning the related matters to the margin. It is also known for condemnation of persistence on the image as the basis for interpretation. It is also seen as the forerunner to structuralism (Ping, 2013).

Russian formalism strips its literary artifact from the manner it is connected with the author, historical background and the reader. These connections act as literacy artifacts that are used to understand the movement. Russian formalism keeps life and art apart this treating the two as mutually exclusive. In literature, authors are artisans. Any work of literature is related to literature in general and not the author.


Realism is a form of writing that refers to the representation of reality or verisimilitude that means similarity or genuineness. It also relates to a particular type of subject matter that portrays the life of the middle-class citizens. Studies that have been documented since time in history and the impact of philosophy have affected the rise of realism. Realism is literary technique is practiced in writing by many authors. Realism arose in reaction to romanticism. Many scholars have claimed that there is no distinction between realism and naturalism of the nineteenth century. Realism is widely used in European contexts as compared to the American literature. It is used differently in American and European literature, and that is why many scholars find it hard to define the term. Pizer is a scholar who says that it is hard to define realism. He claimed that whatever was being produced in the 1870s and 1880s fiction and was interesting, new could be referred to as realism. In American literature, realism entails the period from the civil war to the turn of the century when William Howells, Henry James, Mark Twain and other authors wrote fiction that was devoted to the exploration and depiction of American lives in different contexts (Realism in American Literature 2016). As America grew after the civil war, there were increasing rates literacy and democracy. The world war changed the culture and the economy of many Americans. There was also rapid growth in urbanization and industrialism, and this expanded the population base due to the rise of the middle-class affluence and immigration. All these aspects provided a fertile literary environment for the readers who wished to understand these cultural shifts. Due to the changes that were happening in American society, many Americans wanted literature that explained what happened and what was currently going on in the American society. Therefore, they turned to realism, which maintained reality. Some authors refer realism as a strategy that can be used to manage the threats connected to social change (Realism - Literature Periods & Movements, 2016)

Realism believes in actuality in its representation. It focuses on the truthful treatment of the everyday life. It seeks the relationship between the subject and the representation, and this is what is known as mimesis. Realists are usually concerned with the effect of the work of art on the reader, readers life, and the pragmatic view. Realism aims to interpret the actualities that exist in every sphere of life. It is free from idealism and subjective prejudice. It majorly emphasizes on real over fantasy (Realism in American Literature, 2016)

Realism has numerous characteristics. It mirrors reality and lays much emphasis on plot, verisimilitude. It views characters to be more important than the plot and the action. Further, the characters appear in their real motive and the complexity of temperament. They are in proper relation to each other, nature, their past, and the social class. In realism, class is regarded to be very important, and the novel usually serves the interest of the middle class. In realistic stories, events are plausible, and they tend to avoid dramatic and the sensational elements that are often found in naturalistic and romantic novels. When it comes to diction, it is usually vernacular that is not poetic or heightened, and the tone may be satiric, matter-of fact or comic change (Realism - Literature Periods & Movements, 2016)

Realism became the subject of controversy. There were many debates over the suitability or the realism as a literary movement. Its mode of representation led to a critical exchange that was known as realism war. The realism of Twain and James was critically commended in the onset of the twentieth century. Howellsian realism fell during the twentieth century.


For numerous years, women have strived to gain equality with men. They have been denied opportunities because they are women. Feminism refers to belief in political, social, and economic equality of both genders. Feminist movement deals with the problems faced by women such as gender differences, cultural, economic, and political issues. This movement tries to give rights to women who have been denied their equality and privileges that men have never given them. These issues were not brought into limelight until 1972 when the feminists began to see them with a critical eye.

This movement has three waves. The first wave started in the nineteenth and the twentieth century in the United States. The issues discussed in this era included the right of women to vote and protecting them from violence. In 1918, a legal act was adopted that claimed that a woman had a right to vote only when she was thirty years. This bill was approved in many countries including the United States. This first wave finished with the approval of the nineteenth amendment where women were given the right to vote in other nations. This wave highly transformed the lives of many women. The end of the first wave led to the start of the second wave. The first wave dealt with the right of women in voting, equality of women and end of discrimination. The activist of the second wave of feminism was known as Carol Hanisch. This wave dealt with the inequalities of women in the cultural and the political spheres of life. The third wave began in early 1990, and it arose to address the failures of the second wave. The activist of this wave was Susan Flaudi. Many contradictions existed between the first and the second wave (Dicker & Piepmeier, 2016).

Feminism had many characteristics. The first one is that it is usually divided according to different types such as social feminism that deal with social issues such as submission of women in the society. Cultural feminism is another form of feminism that deals with the gender differences that exist between men and females. Lastly, there is the lack feminism that deals with issues of racism. That is the differences between the black and the white women (Dicker & Piepmeier, 2016).

Feminism was an influential art. It reflected the life of art. Art was feminine in that it allowed an individual bring some visibility of its history and practice and this started in 1960 and 1970. Some writers such as Emily Dickinson argue that people will rarely accept that women in literature have a high level of writing. She claims that literature is literature, and there is no need of having gender differences in writing. The feminist movement stated that the writing of women differed from that of men. Susan Carillon, in her essays, claims that men have tried to distort the works of art written by men and females (Humm, 2015).

When it comes to feminism, women have gained equality in many aspects of life. Women have come a long way over the previous hundred decades, and feminism is still on the rise to ensure that women get equal opportunities with men and to ensure that the dignity of all the people is protected. Numerous women and men in the world can celebrate the differences that exist between various individuals without discriminating them. Feminism is a movement that has highly transformed the world. If it were not for the activists of feminists, the women would still be facing discrimination in political, social, and economic aspects of life (Humm, 2015).


Dicker, R., & Piepmeier, A. (Eds.). (2016). Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st century. Northeastern University Press.

Galan, F. & Steiner, P. (1985). Russian Formalism: A Metapoetics. World Literature Today, 59(4), 617., M. (2015). Readers Guide to Contemporary Feminist Literary Criticism. Routledge.

Ping, L. I. N. (2013). A Review of Main Ideas of Russian...

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