Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The familiarity of Victor Shklovsky's defamiliarization

In "Art as Technique" (1917), Victor Shklovksy proposed an understanding of literature in terms of "defamiliarization", in which familiar objects, images, or experiences are presented in such a way that we can see them anew. There's a moral edge to this: we need art to help us properly experience the world outside of our habits. Shklovksy goes on to offer a series of examples from works by Leo Tolstoy, who "uses this technique constantly", and then adds that it "is found almost everywhere form is found." But therein lies the paradox of defamiliarization as a literary "technique": to be effective, defamiliarization itself has to be "constant" and "everywhere" – and hence "familiar". (Andrew Shields, #111words, 10 November)

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