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Discuss how "defamiliarization" has been adopted in each work and the effect that it...

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pastez | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 2, 2009 at 4:58 PM via web

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Discuss how "defamiliarization" has been adopted in each work and the effect that it achieves?

I Am Not Yours

by Sara Teasdale

I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

You love me, and I find you still
A spirit beautiful and bright,
Yet I am I, who long to be
Lost as a light is lost in light.

Oh plunge me deep in love, put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind.

 

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ssengupta | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted October 3, 2009 at 10:46 PM (Answer #1)

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"Defamiliarization" is the way writers make something literary, as opposed to using language to simply report something factually. Poetry is, of course, an obvious example of making something literary.

To make this point clearer, let me give a somewhat funny example.

Suppose I am standing in front of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City and some one comes and asks me what building was that behind me. I could simply tell him that it was the Metropolitan Museum; or I could say, "That? That is an:

...unravish'd bride of quietness,...

foster child of Silence and slow Time...!

If the person did not recognize that I was quoting from John Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn, he would probably think me one of the crazy people roaming around the streets of New York! BUT, he might also notice the strange (poetic) language I used.

The above weird example makes an important point about literarines. It is self-referential in the sense it attracts attention to itself. Defamiliarization is perhaps the principal way that poetry becomes literary. It attracts attention to itself. That is why it is poetry.

Hans Bretens, a literary theorist, has explained this very well in his discussion on the the "Formalists." The formalists were critics in the beginning of the 20th Century who believed that, more than the content, a literary work was literary because of its form.Whether they gave too much importance to form or not is another discussion. But I think they were right in pointing out the importance of form. A poetic stanza is a form; repition of certain words in a poem (like love in Teasdale's poem)over and over again is part of the form.

The secret of 'literariness', the Formalists argued, was that in poetry ordinary language becomes 'defamiliarized'. Giving the example of an article in Time magazine, Breten writes: "While an article in Time is satisfied to use fairly ordinary language for the purpose of reporting, poetry subjects language to a process of defamiliarization."

Linguistic defamiliarization in a poem leads to a perceptual defamiliarization on the part of the reader, so that we experience a renewed and fresh way of looking at the world.

How does the poem cited above defamiliarize  'ordinary' language? You can see that it employs an impressive range of so-called 'devices', some of which have been pointed out by the above contributer. For example, Teasdale, the poet, uses the word "love" many more times than in an ordinary conversation in which a woman tells someone that she is in love. She uses metaphors and symbols like the ones the above contributer has discussed so well.

What these devices do is that they defamiliarize language and remind us, the readers, that when reading literature -- in this case, poetry -- we are not dealing with the real world, but a world of emotion, imagination and esthetics.

Teasdale's poem, "I Am Not Yours," could have been expressed as a message in very straight forward words: I am not yours. But what the poet gives us is far more than a factual statement. It expresses a range of emotions expressed by someone who both wants to be swept away with love and yet maintain her own self-hood. The images are both visual ("a taper in a rushing wind") and deeply evocational and metaphorical: "Oh, plunge me deep in love..."

I hope this helps.

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kimfuji | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted October 2, 2009 at 5:17 PM (Answer #2)

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Defamiliarization is a way of making something which is familiar to be viewed in a new way. In the poem by Teasedale, in the first stanza the image with the candle is one example, lost as a candle lit at noon where the light it gives off is lost in all the light that already exists in daylight.  Lost as a snowflake in the sea where lost is seen as disappearing into the sea. In this sense "lost" is defined or seen in a new way. It is disappearing into the essence of the other. She wants to be lost like this way where she looses her identity and her borders, but she cannot. The effect is wonderful! As the reader, we can think of deep love in a new way as a disolving of something of ourselves.

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