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Class 7 Notes

Page history last edited by Alan Liu 10 years, 6 months ago

Origins and Cultural Context of New Criticism

(Continued from last class)


New Criticism Timeline

  • Highlights  of history of the New Criticism:
    • 1915: Meetings in Nashville at house of Sidney Mttron Hirsch with John Crowe Ransom (poet and professor at Vanderbilt U.), his students, and others
    • WW I:  The group reconvenes after the Great War with the addition of new members, including Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren)
    • 1922: Founding of The Fugitive poetry magazine by the "Fugitive Group"
    • 1925
    • 1930: Publication of I'll Take My Stand ("by twelve Southerners") and formation of the Agrarian movement
    • Late '30's and early '40's: Emergence of the New Criticism as a critical/theoretical movement; launching of Kenyon Review (ed. Ransom) and Southern Review (ed. Brooks) after 1937
    • 1940's: The New Criticism comes to the Yale English Dept (followed by the hiring at Yale of Brooks, Warren, and others)













Core Model of New Criticism




Russian Formalism


Rough Map of Modern Literary Theory

       Readings from Russian Formalism:

(in required book: Lemon & Reis, ed., Russian Formalist Criticism)  


  • Victor Shklovsky, "Art as Technique" (1917)
  • Boris Eichenbaum, "The Theory of the 'Formal Method'" (1926) 
  • Boris Tomashevsky, from "Thematics" (1925): read only pp. 66-87, 92-95 


  • Resources for Study of Russian Formalism (see below)


1. The "Voice" of Russian Formalism


  • Victor Shklovsky, "Art as Technique" (1917)
    • (p. 5): "'Art is thinking in images.' This maxim, which even high school students parrot, is nevertheless the starting point for the erudite philologist who is beginning to put together some kind of systematic literary theory."
  • Boris Eichenbaum, "The Theory of the 'Formal Method'" (1926) 
    • (p. 102): "The so-called formal method grew out of a struggle for a science of literature that would be both independent and factual; it is not the outgrowth of a particular methodology. The notion of a method has been so exaggerated that it now suggests too much. In principle the question for the Formalist2 is not how to study literature, but what the subject matter of literary study actually is. We neither discuss methodology nor quarrel about it. We speak and may speak only about theoretical principles suggested to us not by this or that ready-made methodology. but by the examination of specific material in its specific context."


2. Development of Russian Formalism

                  (For resources on Russian Formalism see below)


  • Turn of the Century Russian Literary Milieu (compare the Western literary milieu prior to New Criticism):
    • Analogous to Belle Lettres in West:
      • Russian Symbolists (Vladimir Solovev, Aleksandr Blok, Andrei Belyi, etc.)
      • Alexander Potebnya (psychologization of Symbolism: poetry is thinking in images)
    • Analogous to Historical Criticism:
      • Academic scholarship: sociological and biographical on the model of Taine and German Kultur- and Geistesgeschicte
      • Journalistic criticism
    • Avant-garde or New Movements:
      • Futurism (e.g., Vladimir Mayakovsky)
      • Linguistics 


  • Emergence: 1915-20
    • 1915: Moscow Linguistic Circle (Roman Jakobson, Boris Tomashevsky, Vladimir Mayakovsky)
    • 1916: Petersburg Society for the Study of Poetic Language, or OPOJAZ (linguists: Leo Jakubinsky; literary theorists: Victor Shlovsky, Boris Eichenbaum)
    • Sborniki journal (Studies in the Theory of Poetic Language)
    • 1920: "Division of Literary History" at the Petrograd State Institute of Art History (Eichenbaum, Shlovsky, Jurij Tynjanov, Tomashevski)


  • Triumph and Diversification: 1921-25


  • Attack and Defeat: 1925-30  (see Victor Erlich, Russian Formalism: History–Doctrine, chapters 6-7)
    • 1924-25: opening of the Marxist offensive on formalism
      • Leon Trotsky's Literature and the Revolution (with a chapter on "The Formalist School") (1924)
      • Article by Anatoly Lunacharsky, first Soviet Commissar of Education in the Press and Revolution journal (1924)
    • 1926-28: period of accommodation to Marxism
      • Shklovsky, The Third Factory (1926); Materials and Style in Tolstoy's War and Peace (1928)
      • Eichenbaum: "Literature and Literary Mores" (1927)
    • 1928-32: First Five-Year Plan
      • RAPP, Russian Assoc. of Proletarian Writers, given the task of regulating literary theory
    • 1930 and following
      • Shklovsky, "A Monument to a Scientific Error" (1930)


  • New Developments
    • The "Prague School": Prague Linguistic Circle (1926)
    • "Neo-Structuralists" (e.g., Jurij Lotman, Boris Uspenskij)



3. Principles of Russian Formalism



Comparison of New Criticism & Russian Formalism


(A) Differentia Specifica
(B) Defamiliarization ("ostraneniye")
  • Victor Shklovsky, "Art as Technique" (1917)
    • (p. 12): "And so life is reckoned as nothing.  Habitualization devours works, clothes, furniture, one’s wife, and the fear of war.  'If the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been.'  And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony.  The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known.  The technique of art is to make objects 'unfamiliar,' to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged.  Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important."


Resources for Study of Russian Formalism


  • Some Russian Formalist writings in English (other than in the Lemon & Reis volume)
    • Ladislav Matejka and Krystyna Pomorska, ed., Readings in Russian Poetics: Formalist and Structuralist Views (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press 1971)


  • About Russian Formalism
    • Victor Erlich, Russian Formalism: History--Doctrine, 3d ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981)
    • Peter Steiner, Russian Formalism: A Metapoetics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984)
    • Ewa M. Thompson, Russian Formalism and Anglo-American New Criticism: A Comparative Study (The Hague: Mouton, 1971)
    • Tony Bennett, Formalism and Marxism, New Accents (London: Methuen, 1979)


  • Some Prague School essays in English
    • Ladislav Matejka and Irwin R. Titunik, ed., Semiotics of Art: Prague School Contributions (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1976)
    • Peter Steiner, The Prague School: Selected Writings, 1929-1946 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982)


  • On the Prague School
    • F. W. Galan, Historic Structures: The Prague School Project, 1928-1946 (Austin University of Texas Press, 1985)


  • Some "Neo-Structuralist" works in English
    • Daniel P. Lucid, ed. and trans., Soviet Semiotics: An Anthology (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977)
    • Alexander D. Nakhimovsky and Alice Stone Nakhimovsky, The Semiotics of Russian Cultural History: Essays by Iurii M. Lotman, Lidiia Ia. Ginsburg, Boris A. Uspenskii (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985)



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