Viktor Shklovsky


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Russianliterary theorist and founder of Opoyaz, one of the two groups (the other was the Moscow Linguistic Circle) which combined to give rise to Russian Formalism. Born in St Petersburg, he attended St Petersburg University, and then entered the army. He fought in World War I, recording his experiences in a memoir, Sentimental'noe puteshestvie, vospominaniia (1923), translated as A Sentimental Journey: Memoirs, 1917–22 (1970). A prolific author, Shklovsky wrote studies of Laurence Sterne, Maxim Gorky, and Leo Tolstoy, as well as several semi-autobiographical works. He is best known though for his invention of the concept of ostranenie (‘defamiliarization’ or ‘estrangement’), central to so much of the work of the Russian Formalists. A neologism, it implies two kinds of actions: making strange, and pushing aside. Shklovsky's best-known work, which is also one of the best accounts of ostranenie available, is O teorii prozy (1929), translated as Theory of Prose (1990). Sections of it, especially the key essay ‘Art as device’, were translated in the 1970s, and circulated very widely.

Further Reading:

T. Bennett Formalism and Marxism (1979).V. Erlich Russian Formalism: History—Doctrine (1955).

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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