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Russian Formalism

Roman Jakobson (1896—1982) Russian-born American linguist


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  • Literary theory and cultural studies


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Russian acronym created from Obschevesto po izucheniyu poeticheskogo yazyka (Society for the Study of Poetic Language), which along with the Moscow Linguistic Circle was one of the precursor groups to Russian Formalism. The group was formed in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1916, by a group of students and professors working in language studies. It was chaired by the poet Osip Brik and its membership included Victor Shklovsky, Boris Eichenbaum, and Roman Jakobson. The group was interested in uncovering the working mechanisms of literary technique, or more precisely identifying the specific quality of language use that separated the literary text from the non-literary text. The group, never more than a loosely knit discussion unit and occasional cooperative publishing venture, folded in 1923 and merged with the Moscow Linguistic Circle, though by then many of its leading lights had already fled abroad.

Further Reading:

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

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