What is Russian formalism, and what was its effect on literature?

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Russian formalism was a school of Russian literary scholarship that emerged in the 1910s, flourished throughout the 10s and 20s, and was forcefully repressed by Stalin beginning in the 1930s. It was primarily a fierce reaction against theretofore predominant intellectual trends in literary analysis. Russian formalists, including Boris Eichenbaum, Roman Jakobson, Viktor Shklovsky, Boris Tomashevsky, and Yuri Tynyanov, rejected those literary styles characterized by academic esotericism, the “people” centric, message-oriented literature of social theorists, and symbolic literature. Instead, they argued for the creation of a standard (“formalized”) field of literary study, one which would clearly delimit its methodological approaches and the theoretical criteria by which it would analyze works of literature. The formalists argued that literary study needed to clearly and unambiguously define what its own field of inquiry was and put an end to the blending of analytical traditions.

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