EVERYONE’S A CRITIC…

15 Sep

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FORMALISM. LITERATURE STUDIES

The Formalistic movement of literary critique was a reaction to the cold, calculated method of viewing literature through the eyes of supposed political motivation, biographical nuance and historical interpretation, the verbiage laid open like a cadaver on a slab to be viewed as individual pieces. Instead of the detractive pseudo-science of literary vivisection, the text was considered by the Formalists in its entirety as a work of literary endeavor; the product of its parts rather than the sum of them.

Formalism allows one to avoid the clutter of political climate and social adaptation, a novels provenance and the atmosphere in which it was created. Unhindered by such motivations we, the reader, are observers of the words in the work and what it is they say to us and of the author. It isn’t about situational context or trying to put one’s self in the position of the writer but to understand that which they have written, rather than that which has caused the author to write it. We are not applying a deconstructed analysis but taking the body of text as the sum of its parts and viewing it in its totality. What is denotative and what is connotative, what metaphors are being used, can we recognize themes through either allusion or simile and is there an etymological significance with regard to word usage?  Simply put, it’s is not why we think it’s being said but how it’s being said.

The beauty of the formalistic criticism is its simplicity. To add biographical bias or to presume the authors intent is to step outside its bounds, to presuppose their mind and reason is to analyze and dissect. Instead, by utilizing the text as a metaphorical murder site, we can sift through the clues, peruse the D.N.A. and formulate an opinion. When one observes a painting one may choose to contrast the quality of lead based paints over modern oils or perhaps compare the use of horse hair instead of synthetic bristles. But what of its body and what does it reveal of itself? Is the painting beautiful, what does it mean to you, what in its composition evokes an emotion or causes a reaction?

Close reading of a text will reveal such things as tone and mood, metaphors and allusions, indications of intent and innate symbolism. Through the analytical observance of text we can discover its secrets, what it is that underlies the work and what is written between the lines, so to speak. To use the old adage of “It isn’t what we say but how we say it,” that is the crux of formalistic critique. The focus of the formalist is the text, the whole text and nothing but the text.

 

 

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