Critical Theory

Victor Shklovsky was a Russian Formalist writer who set up the ???Society for the Study of Poetic Language in Russia??™ (OPOYAZ) in 1916. He focused on the techniques of Russian Formalism and the development of Critical Theories. He was also a member of the Moscow Linguistic Circle which sought to develop formalist linguistics and literary techniques. His most notable theory is that of ???Ostranenie??™ or de-familiarization whereby the author was apart from the work and wrote exactly what was seen rather than being preoccupied with how it would be received. Wolfgang Iser on the other hand, was a strong hermeneutical theorist and lecturer who created the Reader Response Theory. Hermeneutical thinkers were fixated on interpretations of written pieces. During Iser??™s time in Germany he studied the importance the reader had on a text because after all a piece of literature is written to be read and enjoyed by others and the response a text conjures is far more superior than a need to provide readers with meaning or ???to create a special understanding of the object.??? (Shklovsky, ???Art as Technique??™)
I feel the most valid critical theory is Reader Response Theory. Reader Response Theory recognises the strength of the reader??™s experience of a literary piece of work. It highlights the importance of a reader??™s ability to understand gaps in a piece of writing without be led to a conclusion. Iser called this ???Indeterminacy??™ which basically means that authors can leave the reader to make up their own assumptions about something that happens because it challenges the reader therefore making it a stronger piece of literature. He was greatly influenced by Polish Phenomenologist and literary analyst Roman Ingarden who had many ideas central to indeterminacy and the fact that responses can be programmed by the author. Indeterminacy can take many forms in literature but it happens largely whenever it is impossible for the reader to grasp exactly what an object may look like for example. He held a strong belief that there was no such thing as passive reading and that all readers fill in pieces of the puzzle left by authors and this is what makes pieces of literature written in this way the most appealing types of books today.
That being said, I do appreciate the significance and importance of Shklovsky??™s ideas. Throughout his essay ???Art as a Technique??™ he shows us how important Poetry is in English Literature. It is as he puts it, an art form. ???Poetry is a special way of thinking; it is, precisely, a way of thinking in images.??? (Shklovsky, ???Art as a Technique??™). At the close of the 19th century poetry was held up on a pedestal above all other works of Literature. It was regarded as the ultimate genre and that it was simply; prose working at its toughest because poetry is so difficult to decipher. Shklovsky stressed that imagery in poetry was used as a tool for impression. It was and is still used to gauge a reaction but the words behind it are what make it powerful. Shklovsky stated that writers used certain tools to create and control readers??™ responses; this is a very important tool to use in literature as it moulds our thoughts and or subjectivity can be controlled by the author who wants to direct us towards a certain belief or emotion.
In his most notable essay ???Indeterminacy and the Reader??™s Response??™, Iser set out the thought that in order for a piece of writing to be successful the author must acknowledge and consider his or her audience. He went on to explain that ???Perception without aids is as impossible as cognition without aids.???(Iser, ???Indeterminacy and the Reader??™s Response??™). Iser intended us to understand that readers do need to be lead somewhat so in a certain way to see what the author wants us to see but he maintained that readers can and do enjoy being a part of figuring out the meanings behind words and what images are to be summoned.
The main advantage of writing in the style following Iser would be that your work would be more accessible and understandable to the reader. Communication of ideas would flow easier as the reader is made the priority over the author and the text. However, Iser??™s focus was generally geared towards one private reader and therefore literature focused solely on Reader Response Theory would suffer as it would not be received well by a wide audience. Iser??™s main tool: that of interdeterminacy, gives readers the chance to be free with a text and have their own interpretations of a text. It works along the show don??™t tell policy which I find to be easy to get interested in. By allowing readers to draw their own conclusions of images and statements, this means that writers can be more identifiable and accessible with a wider variety of backgrounds because their words are there to guide the readers??™ imaginations.
Due to Shklovsky??™s Formalistic roots, his theory of defamiliarization (???ostranenie??™) sought to focus authors on the fact that literature was a reflection of the world itself and that all their works needed to be a separate entity from their own personal experiences. I find this to be quite a narrow viewpoint to look at; purely because if we are to take this stance on literary theory it would mean that unless the author had the exact same experience you did and could convey it in a detached manner, his or her works would be pointless because we wouldn??™t be able to understand them. His focus held on the idea of the author stepping away from his work and the more aloof a writer was to his work the better it could be.
Wolfgang Iser maintained that the texts were able to comment on life and what was happening in it. This made pieces of work that followed this theory more manageable
because they were written to concentrate on the specific relationship that takes place between a reader and the text. He disregarded the dissociative methods favoured by Shklovsky in relation to writing because it meant that the writing style was plain and the plainer the style of writing the more useless it was. Iser was a particularly positive theorist; he believed that there was a relationship between the reader and the piece of literature and that a good piece of prose writing could make us do something because it impacted so strongly upon us. These reactions ranged from ???throwing a book away??? or in some instances ???being compelled to revise??? your own preconceptions of a certain topic.
Both theorists have validity when it comes to literary criticisms. I find Iser easier to understand as his excerpt is more conversational and flows well into the next sentence. Whereas Shklovsky??™s piece requires you to slowly go through the lines and he makes it sound difficult, when he could have simply said that estrangement is necessary for your work to be accepted in both literary circles and reader circles as a good piece of prose writing. Shklovsky is more focused on a scientific procedural conduct for when it comes to writing where Iser is more concerned with the humanist aspect. I think Shklovsky was trying to turn literary criticism and literature into a more scientific method because the Sciences are always held in a higher regard then Humanities.
Wolfgang Iser??™s theory is good because it allows for the fact that each reader has a different background and that each interpretation will be different therefore different texts should have more or less levels of determinacy depending on what involvement the writer wants from the reader. Iser accepts that readers have the knowledge behind them to read the text without prompts from the author on how something should be understood, see the meanings within the lines and for these reason this theory is more prominent. However, it cannot be denied that Shklovsky??™s formalist theory had an impact on literature as a whole because all authors recognise the importance of aesthetics in their pieces and his views on structuralism have held and are still widely used today by many authors.

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