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Formalism

Autonomy And "science" Of Literature

Formalism emerged as a reaction against the methods of literary scholarship of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It countered the study of literature that took an exclusive approach in which the content and ideas of literary works were embraced as faithful reflections of social and political reality. Thus formalism rejected the study of literature's background, its external conditions, its social and national tasks, and the psychology and biography of the author; instead, it proposed a focus on the literary work itself and a study of its constituent, that is, formal, components. This led to an insistence on the autonomy of both imaginative literature and of literary scholarship. Under formalism, works of literature were to be approached as artistic phenomena independent of any social, historical, ideological, or psychological circumstances. This isolation of literature from its external conditions entailed efforts to systematize and define literary scholarship. Indeed, the formalists' true concern was to reform literary study and make it a more scientific discipline. They attempted a "science" of literature by defining what the real subject of literary study is and by establishing its own methods of inquiry.

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