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The sum of special linguistic and formal properties that distinguish literary texts from non-literary texts, according to the theories of Russian Formalism. The leading Formalist Roman Jakobson declared in 1919 that ‘the object of literary science is not literature but literariness, that is, what makes a given work a literary work’. Rather than seek abstract qualities like imagination as the basis of literariness, the Formalists set out to define the observable ‘devices’ by which literary texts—especially poems—foreground their own language, in metre, rhyme, and other patterns of sound and repetition. Literariness was understood in terms of defamiliarization, as a series of deviations from ‘ordinary’ language. It thus appears as a relation between different uses of language, in which the contrasted uses are liable to shift according to changed contexts. See also function, literature.

Subjects: Literature

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