Essay about Literature - Formalism, The Hershey Bar of Criticism

Essay about Literature - Formalism, The Hershey Bar of Criticism

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Formalism - The Hershey Bar of Criticism


Formalism means a lot of different things to a lot of different people and refers to many different types of critical work and analysis. But to make a complicated matter simple, we can say pretty safely that formalism refers to critics or criticism that, first and foremost, emphasize the form or structure of a work of art and assume that nothing in that form or structure is really accidental or insignificant. That is, the formal elements in a work of art all mean something, in relation to one another and to us. By looking at the architecture of art—how it is constructed, what its elements are, how they fit together, why they are there, and where they lead—formalism assumes that we will make great strides towards understanding that meaning.

Beyond this, pinning down a definition of formalism can be tough work. Just as what we mean by a “work of art” can vary greatly—a poem or painting, a classic symphony, a pre-Colombian vase—so, too, can what we mean by “form” or “formal elements” vary. We may talk about a meter or rhyme scheme, a br...

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