Literariness And Device
According to formalism, the background of literature and other extraliterary phenomena do not belong to literary scholarship. The proper subject matter of the discipline is not even literature itself but a phenomenon that Jakobson, in his work Noveishaya russkaya poeziya (1921; Recent Russian poetry), called literaturnost' (literariness). He declared that it is literariness that makes a given work a literary work. In other words, literariness is a feature that distinguishes literature from other human creations and is made of certain artistic techniques, or devices (priemy), employed in literary works. These devices became the primary object of the formalists' analyses and, as concrete structural components of the works of literature, were essential in determining the status of literary study as a science.
One of the most important devices with which the formalists dealt was the device of "defamiliarization" (ostranenie). As described by Shklovsky in "Iskusstvo kak priem" (1917; Art as device), defamiliarization, a typical device of all literature and art, serves to present a familiar phenomenon in an uncommon fashion for the purpose of a renewed and prolonged (the device of retardation) aesthetic perception. This kind of perception is an aim of art.
The notion of device was very seminal, as it helped the formalists do away with the traditional division of literature into form and content. They claimed that form and content are inseparable and that they constitute one unity. In place of form and content the formalists proposed to use the notions of device and material, respectively. Material stands for the raw and unorganized stuff of literature, not only themes, ideas, emotions, events, and the "outside world," but also language; device transforms material into an artistically shaped literary work of art.
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