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Patrick McEvoy-Hal ston English 46llF0l ProfessorStephenRoss 23 Septemb 2002 er Irreconcilable Differences?

: Literary criticism' s turn (in)to science Victor Shklovsky arguesthat the purposeof art is to draw our attention to the "sensation


-ll'. i' eer$t Technique" thatprosaicprose,too, canmakethe familiar seemstrange. his essay as is ") i f " ' , , t '

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the Shklovsky(andthe Russian formalistsin general) seem wantto accomplish impossible-to of the that is, makethe studyof art into a science.Yet, by emphasizing importance an artistic the respect the phenomenological, for creation'sevocation feelings,andwith his seeming of and science between has the sensual of aspects things,he indeed me re-imagining relationship as science art couldbe conceived and art. Perhaps, ratherthanbeingopposites, evenenemies, to if havinga symbioticrelationship with oneanother.However, I imaginea plausibleresponse particularto his language--that artistmight make,however"true" I an Shklovsky'sessay--in might eventually d?:t-e,Shklovsky'sanalysis whatmakesart artis, I might cometo prefera of would haveliked. thanShklovsky morecircuficisedrole for the formalistcritic (scientist) only with what canbe my as BeforereadingShklovsky, sense science beingconcerned of
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quantified--with physicaldimensions, example--left unprepared imaginea scientist to me for i1! discipline beingconcerned the "stoniness" a stone with of to Qa\. Science, me,wasthe ascetic qualities, while art wasthe colourfulcraft that thatbegan strippingthingsof their sensual by as drew attention how thingsaffectpeople.You couldsaythat I thoughtof science from Mars to so themasbelongrng domains differentfrom one to andof art asfrom Venus: I imagined is the another they clashed that morereadilythanthey combined.Formalism amongst first critical approaches art that attempts systemize studyof art into a science, by coming and to to the to the conclusion art shouldre-awaken senses--a that conclusion is so easyto imaginean it our to artistapproving marriage science artmay be of--it seemed me, at first, thatthe attempted to of
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a more naturalunion than I hadpreviouslyassumed.However,an artist migltt still haveme imagining this union asa marriagebetween heavenandhell. I canimaginean artist arguingthat formalistsarenot to be husted. "Handsoff" she renewing, proclaims,"the formalist critic is asmuch an enemyto the artist's aim of enhancing, with his exploration andre-invigoratinglife asis any scientist." The formalist oitic, sheargues, "algebruc" (741) language, anddiscoveryof laws, ofroles, with his useof concise,abshact, eventhoughhe conceives the artist as"close to nafurg" aimsto be asmuch the neutral,distant of to free from thc swayofemotions, of feeli"gs, asany'teasoning" scientistattempts be. observer, -U When Shklovsky that "[w]e must,then,speakaboutthe laws of expenditure {as "*oo-t ,, 1., that you canbe surethat this the very last tbing we must do! in language"(741),the artist argues will Anyonewho spends mxch time using suchabstactedlanguage pe umeachable:they too 'wouldbecome usedto (or to usethe socialscientist's term,so'tabituated" (741)to) thinking so .,,., .
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rvith language distantftom, with so little echoof, the "sensationls]of life ' that whetheror not so

thosewho adoptthe formal*, tT*"t".*1 he is right that art is about'tecover[ing] sensation," lf " to the of mindset become virtuallyunable "experience artfulness an objecf'(74D. In sum,the artist might reply to my discoveryof a would-bescientistseemingly qualitiesof thingsby suggesting the formalist critic is that interested feelingsandthe sensual in -'


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pimanly n sndying, andnot experiencing, fee'lngs. The formalist sheargues, interested patternytruth{over the feelingartistwho privilegesthe enlightened, stoiccritic who discovers them" (739). The formalist,she apparently only "a:rang[es]images[rather]thancreat[es] privilegescritical analysis proclaims,aswith all scientists, over artisticproductionand
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is Shklovsty r"ll-:yi0ently would disagree an art-"scientist" lessablethanothersto that
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appreciategood art. In "Art as Technique," he not only reveals o'howpoetry works," he

poet(Iolstoy). But if theartistis rightthattheformalist delineates to him,is aneffective who, '' ir'-{' Z rt'\ it" ioi r''o ,.,,i(l' critic is inhibited his familiarity'imd of highlysSmbolic by and thouglr he use analysis prose,
may indeed"ernpowered discoverlaws which might accurately to identifu the distinct and ..- different roles of prosaicandartistic works,he cannotat the sametime be the oneto distinguish
,;\' '.' ' t'effective,or "good" art from ineffective,or "bad" art. This sort of distinctionis availableonly to I. ._. ., \ i " + f l d : i a l - ' r ' X,1k (tt<,r-1t"{t dl1 li thosewho can still be affectedby art-that is, to ordinarypeoplg not to sci6ntists.The formalist


peoplehaveto art andthereby critic might measure physiologicalresponses the sensitive determine which artist writes goodpoetry,but his personalassessment could not be trusted.
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prosestyle, The artisi may over-estih-ate consequences adoptinga higNy abshact the of as but Shklovskyseems be completelyunaware to that his prosecanbe asestranging he
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Works Cited Shklovsky, Victor. "Art asTechnique."The Critical Tradition: ClassicTextsand Trends.Ed. DavidRichter.Boston:BedfordBooks,1989. 737-748. Contemporary

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am aware that I am reading the English translation of Shklosvky's work, but guess that his prose seemshighly "scientific" in either language.