Defamiliarization (Ostranenie)-key concept in Russian Formalism

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Defamiliarization (Ostranenie)-key concept in Russian Formalism 2

Defamiliarization Ostranenie

Defamiliarization, also known as ostranenie, is a concept that originated within the Russian Formalist movement and was further developed by theorists such as Viktor Shklovsky. It refers to the artistic technique of presenting familiar objects, situations, or ideas in a way that disrupts habitual perception, making them appear strange, unfamiliar, or fresh.

The goal of defamiliarization is to challenge and engage the reader or viewer by preventing them from passively consuming the work of art. By defamiliarizing the familiar, artists aim to make the audience perceive the world anew and to provoke active participation and critical thinking. Moscow Linguistic Circle (Group of linguists and grammarians) Russian Formalism, Russian Formalism- important key concepts

According to the Formalists, everyday perception tends to become automatic and routine, causing objects and experiences to lose their impact and significance. Defamiliarization seeks to counteract this automatism by presenting familiar things in a way that makes them stand out and demands the audience’s attention. By disrupting habitual perception, the audience is forced to reflect on the object or situation, noticing its peculiarities and reevaluating its meaning.

Defamiliarization can be achieved through various artistic techniques, including:

  1. Estrangement of Language: Artists can use innovative or unconventional language, linguistic devices, or stylistic techniques to disrupt ordinary linguistic patterns and create a sense of unfamiliarity.
  2. Shifting Perspectives: By presenting objects or events from unusual angles or viewpoints, artists can challenge the audience’s accustomed ways of perceiving and interpreting the world.
  3. Heightened Perception: Drawing attention to sensory details that are often overlooked or taken for granted can make the audience see or hear familiar things in a new and heightened way.
  4. Distortion and Dislocation: Artists may deliberately distort or displace familiar objects, settings, or narratives, creating a sense of disorientation and prompting the audience to reassess their preconceptions.
  5. Juxtaposition and Contrasts: Placing unrelated or contradictory elements side by side can create a tension that disrupts habitual perception and invites the audience to find new connections and meanings.

Defamiliarization has been employed in various art forms, including literature, visual arts, film, and theater. It challenges conventional modes of representation and encourages the audience to actively engage with the work, fostering critical thinking and a deeper understanding of the artistic experience.

Overall, defamiliarization or ostranenie is a technique that aims to break the monotony of perception, disrupt habitual ways of understanding the world, and encourage active engagement with artistic works. other sources:,

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