Formalism is a school of literary criticism and literary theory having mainly to do with structural purposes of a particular text.
In literary theory, formalism refers to critical approaches that analyze, interpret, or evaluate the inherent features of a text. These features include not only grammar and syntax but also literary devices such as meter and tropes. The formalist approach reduces the importance of a text’s historical, biographical, and cultural context.
Formalism rose to prominence in the early twentieth century as a reaction against Romanticist theories of literature, which centered on the artist and individual creative genius, and instead placed the text itself back into the spotlight, to show how the text was indebted to forms and other works that had preceded it. Two schools of formalist literary criticism developed, Russian formalism, and soon after Anglo-American New Criticism. Formalism was the dominant mode of academic literary study in the US at least from the end of the Second World War through the 1970s, especially as embodied in René Wellek and Austin Warren's Theory of Literature (1948, 1955, 1962).
Beginning in the late 1970s, formalism was substantially displaced by various approaches (often with political aims or assumptions) that were suspicious of the idea that a literary work could be separated from its origins or uses. The term has often had a pejorative cast and has been used by opponents to indicate either aridity or ideological deviance. Some recent trends in academic literary criticism suggest that formalism may be making a comeback.
Famous quotes containing the word formalism:
“It is sentimentalism to assume that the teaching of life can always be fitted to the childs interests, just as it is empty formalism to force the child to parrot the formulas of adult society. Interests can be created and stimulated.”
—Jerome S. Bruner (20th century)