The main difference between Russian Formalism and New Criticism is their focus on the form and content of a literary work. Russian Formalism mainly focused on the form or structure of a literary work, instead of its content, but New Criticism believed that both form and content are closely connected and equally important.
Russian Formalism and New Criticism are two formalist literary movements that took place in the first half of the twentieth century. In both these literary scholarships, the work of literature or text itself is considered crucial and is studied independently of its context or author’s intention. Moreover, both these schools of thought mainly focus on poetry. Despite these many similarities, there are also some notable differences between these two literary schools.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Russian Formalism
– Definition, Features
2. What is New Criticism
– Definition, Types
3. What are the Similarities Between Russian Formalism and New Criticism
– Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Russian Formalism and New Criticism
– Comparison of Key Differences
Formalism, Russian Formalism, New Criticism
What is Russian Formalism
Russian formalism is a literary scholarship that originated in Russia in 1915. This formalism focused on ‘form’ of literary work, instead of on content, studying formal devices like rhythm, rhyme, meter, syntax, and narrative technique.
Furthermore, Russian formalism involved highly influential Russian scholars like Yuri Tynianov, Viktor Shklovsky, Vladimir Propp, Boris Eichenbaum, Boris Tomashevsky, Grigory Gukovsky, and Roman Jakobson. These scholars advocated a scientific method to study poetic language, declaring that it is distinctive from ordinary language. They called it ‘literariness’. In other words, they believed that how something is said is more important than what is said. Therefore, Russian formalists studied literary work to focus on literary devices and technical elements used by writers. Accordingly, “literary works, … resemble machines: they are the result of an intentional human activity in which a specific skill transforms raw material into a complex mechanism suitable for a particular purpose” (Peter B. Steiner).
In 1916, Victor Shklovsky introduced the concept of defamiliarization, which means making it strange. Defamiliarization of that which has become familiar is the basic use of literary language. In other words, literature has the ability to make us see the world from a new perspective.
What is New Criticism
New criticism is a formalist movement in literary theory that originated in the first half of the 20th century. In new criticism, the texts are considered to be ‘closed’ and autonomous, meaning that everything you need to understand a work of literature is present within it. Therefore, readers do not need outside sources like details about the author to fully understand literary work. In fact, new criticism was a reaction towards biographical and traditional historical criticism, which focused on extra-text materials to analyze a text.
According to New Critics, the structure and meaning of the text are closely connected and can not be analyzed separately. Since their main focus is on the text itself, they exclude factors like the author’s intention, readers’ response, moralistic bias and historical and cultural contexts form the analysis. Moreover, they considered close reading as a good way to interact with a text. Moreover, Robert Penn Warren, John Crowe Ransom, Allan Tate, Cleanth Brooks, and William Empson are some important scholars in this formalist movement.
Similarities Between Between Russian Formalism and New Criticism
- Russian Formalism and New Criticism are two formalist literary movements that took place in the first half of the twentieth century.
- In both these literary movement, the text itself is more important; it is studied independently of the author’s intention and historical and cultural context.
- Moreover, both these schools of thought mainly focus on poetry.
Difference Between Russian Formalism and New Criticism
Russian formalism was a school of literary criticism in Russia from the 1910s to 1930s, but New Criticism was a formalist movement in literary theory that dominated American literary criticism in the first half of the 20th century.
Russian formalism, as its name suggests, was a literary movement in Russia, whereas New Criticism was a literary movement in North America.
Form and Content
Moreover, Russian formalist believed that there is a distinction between form and content, and their focus was on the form or structure of a text, rather than on its content. New Critics, on the other hand, believed that the form and content of the text are closely connected and cannot be analyzed separately.
In brief, Russian Formalism and New Criticism are two formalist literary movements that took place in the first half of the twentieth century. However, there is a difference between Russian Formalism and New Criticism, especially in their focus on the form and content of a literary work. Russian Formalism mainly focused on the form or structure of a literary work, instead of its content. In contrast, New Criticism believed that both form and content are equally important.
1. Raiyah, Mohammed. “Literary Criticism, II, Russian Formalism.” LinkedIn SlideShare, 6 Apr. 2012, Available here.
2. Mambrol, Nasrullah. “Russian Formalism: An Essay.” Literary Theory and Criticism, 25 Apr. 2017, Available here.
3. “New Criticism.” Poetry Foundation, Available here.
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