Viktor Shklovsky (1893-1984) was a prominent Russian literary theorist associated with the class of Russian Formalism. He played a significant role in the development of Russian Formalism by founding OPOYAZ (Society for the Study of Poetic Language) in 1916.
Opposition to Bolshevism and Contribution to Russian Civil War
Shklovsky opposed Bolshevism, a far-left Marxist faction, and faced consequences for his dissent. He went into hiding but was later pardoned in 1919. He also actively participated in the Russian civil war.
Defamiliarization: The Concept of Making the Familiar Unfamiliar
In his essay "Art as Device" from the book "Theory of Prose" (1925), Shklovsky introduced the concept of "Defamiliarization," also known as estrangement. Defamiliarization aims to make common entities unfamiliar to the reader, distinct from practical language which emphasizes easy comprehension and factual assertion.
Poetic Language and Sense through Implication
Shklovsky argues that poetic language, in contrast to practical language, conveys sense through implication rather than direct expressions. Poetic language is aesthetic in nature, and the process of creating sense is more important than the outcome.
Breaking Ordinary Speech Rules
Defamiliarization in poetic language breaks the rules of ordinary speech by conveying messages indirectly through implicit sense. The act of making sense of artistic form within language should be based on the poetic sensibility of the reader.
Works and Influence
In addition to his contributions to literary theory, Shklovsky was also a film theorist and a friend of filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein. Some of his notable works include "Zoo or Letters Not About Love" (1923), "Literature and Cinematography" (1923), "Third Factory" (1926), and "Theory of Prose" (1925).