OPOYAZ – Society for the Study of Poetic Language

Viktor Shklovsky


  • Founded in 1916
  • Russian acronym for the Society for the Study of
    Poetic Language (Obshchevsto po izucheniyu
    poeticheskogo yazyka)
  • Formed at Petrograd (formerly St Petersburg) /
  • Group of literary historians
  • Major theorists
    – Boris Eichenbaum
    – Viktor Shklovsky
    – Yuri Tynianov
    – Osip Brik

OPOYAZ, an acronym for the Society for the Study of Poetic Language (Obshchestvo po izucheniyu poeticheskogo yazyka), was a prominent literary and linguistic group founded in 1916 in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), Russia. It played a significant role in the development of Russian Formalism, a literary and linguistic movement that emerged during the early 20th century.

OPOYAZ focused on the study of poetic language and aimed to establish a scientific and systematic approach to the analysis of literature. The members of OPOYAZ were primarily literary historians who sought to identify and examine the specific linguistic and formal devices used by poets to create aesthetic effects in their works.

The major theorists associated with OPOYAZ included Boris Eichenbaum, Viktor Shklovsky, Yuri Tynianov, and Osip Brik. Each of them made significant contributions to the development of Russian Formalism and the understanding of literary language.

Boris Eichenbaum was one of the key figures in OPOYAZ. He emphasized the role of the reader’s perception and the concept of “defamiliarization” in literary analysis. Eichenbaum argued that the purpose of literature is to make the familiar unfamiliar and to disrupt habitual perception, allowing readers to engage with the text in a fresh and active manner.

Viktor Shklovsky, also associated with the Moscow Linguistic Circle, was a prominent member of OPOYAZ. As mentioned earlier, his essay “Art as Technique” was a significant contribution to the Formalist movement. Shklovsky highlighted the importance of the artistic techniques and devices employed by writers to estrange or defamiliarize familiar perception.

Russian Formalism- important key concepts

Yuri Tynianov explored the relationship between literature and history. He developed the concept of “literary evolution,” which emphasized the dynamic nature of literary forms and the influence of historical and social factors on their development.

Osip Brik, a literary critic and theorist, contributed to OPOYAZ through his exploration of the relationship between literature and politics. He examined the sociopolitical implications of literary language and the role of literature as a tool for social and political transformation.

Moscow Linguistic Circle (Group of linguists and grammarians) Russian Formalism

OPOYAZ’s work and theories influenced the development of Russian Formalism and had a significant impact on literary and linguistic theory, not only in Russia but also internationally. Despite being eventually suppressed by Soviet authorities in the 1930s, the ideas and approaches of OPOYAZ continue to shape the field of literary studies, particularly in the areas of poetic language, formal analysis, and the study of literary history.

https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100251871, https://www.encyclo.co.uk/meaning-of-OPOYAZ

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