Russian Formalist Criticism


Russian Formalist Criticism

Four Essays, Second Edition

Translated and with an introduction by Lee T. Lemon and Marion J. Reis
New introduction by Gary Saul Morson

Regents Critics Series

162 pages


July 2012


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eBook (EPUB)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

November 2014


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“Some of the most important literary theory of this century.”—College English

About the Book

The Russian formalists emerged from the Russian Revolution with ideas about the independence of literature. They enjoyed that independence until Stalin shut them down. By then, however, they had produced essays that remain among the best defenses ever written for both literature and its theory.

Included here are four essays representing key points in the formalists’ short history. Victor Shklovsky’s pioneering “Art as Technique” (1917) defines the literary as a way to make us see familiar things as if for the first time. His 1921 essay on Tristram Shandy makes that eccentric novel the centerpiece for a theory of narrative. A section from Boris Tomashevsky’s “Thematics” (1925) inventories the elements of stories. In “The Theory of the ‘Formal Method’” (1927), Boris Eichenbaum defends Russian Formalism against various attacks. An able champion, he describes Formalism’s evolution, notes its major figures and works, clears away decayed axioms, and rescues literature from “primitive historicism” and other dangers.

These essays set a course for literary studies that led to Prague structuralism, French semiotics, and postmodern poetics. Russian Formalist Criticism has been honored as a Choice Outstanding Academic Book of the Year by the American Library Association.

Author Bio

Lee T. Lemon is an emeritus professor of English at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the author of several books, including Portraits of the Artist in Contemporary Fiction and Approaches to Literature: A Guide to Thinking and Writing.
Marion J. Reis was affiliated with the Oak Park and River Forest High School in Oak Park, Illinois.
Gary Saul Morson is the author of numerous books, including The Words of Others: From Quotations to Culture and “Anna Karenina” in Our Time: Seeing More Wisely.


“Some of the most important literary theory of this century.”—College English

Table of Contents

Introduction by Gary Saul Morson
   Art as Technique
   Sterne's Tristram Shandy: Stylistic Commentary
   The Theory of the "Formal Method"


Choice Outstanding Academic Title

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