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Defamiliarization is the effect of a literary work that disrupts the reader's habitual perception of the world. One of the ways this is done is to make the familiar unfamiliar. For Shklovsky, art achieves defamiliarization by removing "objects from the automatism of perception." Defamiliarization is achieved if the style, structure, or theme is presented in a strange and/or unfamiliar way; as long as that presentation causes the reader to slow down, reconsider, and actively (and/or creatively) think about what he's reading, defamiliarization is achieved. The goal is to provoke the reader to be more thoughtful and active in thinking and reading.
One example of defamiliarization is in Julian Barnes' A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters. The first instance of defamiliarization is that the opening chapter is narrated by a woodworm on Noah's ship. This is an unfamiliar perspective of this story and the woodworm gives an interpretation of Noah and the events surrounding the flood that are also unique:
I don't know how to break this to you, but Noah was not a nice man. I realize this idea is embarrassing, since you are all descended from him; still, there it is. He was a monster, a puffed-up patriarch who spent half his day grovelling to his God and the other half taking it out on us.
In "A Defence of Poetry," Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote that, "Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar."
In Sylvia Plath's "Three Women," the 'FIRST VOICE' describes childbirth in an odd way, causing the reader to think about the details and the aesthetics:
Who is he, this blue, furious boy,
Shiny and strange, as if he had hurtled from a star?
He is looking so angrily!
He flew into the room, a shriek at his heel.
The blue color pales. He is human after all.
A red lotus opens in its bowl of blood;
They are stitching me up with silk, as if I were a material.
Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godotplays with defamiliarization and estrangement. The audience is compelled to consider and reconsider just what is going on, who Godot might be, why this is even considered a play, etc. Anything that is strange and causes the reader/audience to take time to ponder and reconsider things is a use of defamiliarization. In painting, Picasso is a great example of an artist who used an innovative style to create images that were quite strange and/or unfamiliar. In "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, a precursor to Cubism, Picasso presented the female form in a very unconventional way.
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