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date: 09 December 2023


The Oxford Companion to English Literature
Dinah BirchDinah Birch

A term applied, usually pejoratively, to any creative performance in which technique or manner seems to have been cultivated at the expense of substance; or to critical approaches that disregard the subject matter of a work in favour of discussing its formal or stylistic features. More positively, formalism as a critical principle may be defended as a way of understanding art or literature primarily through its techniques rather than as a mere vehicle for personal expression or for moral and political doctrines. Formalism thus exists in continuous dispute with a range of biographical, social, and religious modes of criticism that show more interest in the ‘message’ of an art than in the medium. Just as in literary ... ...

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