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According to formalist critics, foregrounding is a stylistic device that draws attention to itself by way of its defamiliarization from everyday speech. According to an abstract by Maiall & Kuiken (1994):
Stylistic variations, known as foregrounding, hypothetically prompt defamiliarization, evoke feelings, and prolong reading time. These possibilities were tested in four studies in which segment by segment reading times and ratings were collected from readers of a short story. In each study, foregrounded segments of the story were associated with increased reading times, greater strikingness ratings, and greater affect ratings. Response to foregrounding appeared to be independent of literary competence or experience. Reasons for considering readers' response to foregrounding as a distinctive aspect of interaction with literary texts are discussed.
Also, according to Walker Gibson, there are three styles of discourse: plain/tough, sweet, and stuffy. Plain/tough is the language of prose fiction; sweet is the language of advertising; stuffy is the language of Academia (textbooks). If any of the other two styles creep into the other, it is foregrounding, as the author, by way of style, is calling attention to the shift in discourse. His overall premise, of course, is that in a piece of writing, the audience identifies the author by style first and foremost; style breeds trust.
My favorite foregrounders are Faulker, who infuses his experimental fiction with poetic devices (Sound & Fury; As I Lay Dying), and Nabokov, whose creative uses of punctuation (parentheses) in Lolita, both draw attention to themselves, more so that their narrators.
Foregrounding is a significant literary stylistic device based on the Russian Formalist's notion that the very essence of poeticality lies in the "deformation" of language. The Prague scholar Jan Mukarovsky (1891-1975) shaped the notion of foregrounding into a scholarly literary concept.
"Foregrounding" literally means "to bring to the front." The writer uses the sounds of words or the words themselves in such a way that the readers' attention is immediately captivated. The most common means employed by the writers is repetition. Our attention is immediately captivated by the repetition of the sounds of certain words or by the words themselves and we begin to analyse the reasons why the writer is repeating this particular sound or word.
In the tongue twister, "she sells sea shells on the sea shore" it is plain that 's' and 'sh' are foregrounded for their euphonic effect.
In Julius Caesar Act III Sc.2 Mark Antony in the famous funeral speech mocks at Brutus by repeatedly referring to him as "honorable" and each time ironically implying the exactly the opposite.
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