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The Russian Formalists maintained that literary texts make use of language in such a way that it becomes strange and unfamiliar in a given context. They called this process “defamiliarization”. Thus, words can suddenly appear “strange” when placed in a “literary context” or combined with other ones. This preoccupation with words made the formalists to distinguish between form and content. For the formalists, only form mattered since content, such as ideas, feelings or human experience, was just an excuse to organize language in a literary way. Hence, a formalist approach of a text enables the reader to undertake an attentive close reading.
The New Critics also focused on the text and argued that literary language is connotative, and thereafter it evokes deep and secondary meanings. Thus, New Criticism also provides the reader to a close study of texts. However, they did not insist on the separation of form and content. Instead, literary texts were seen as works unified by their devices, motifs, themes, and patterns. Furthermore, their emphasis on the text’s internal unity made them to concentrate on individual texts, whereas the Russian Formalists were more interested in general literary devices or/and entire genres.
In addition, it is important to notice that both schools developed in different times and places and made different assumptions about literature-Russian Formalism originated in Russia before the Bolshevik revolution and New Criticism flourished in USA by the late 1930s, and thereby it extended to England.
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