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Formalist Strategies in Literary Criticism Essay

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Updated: Dec 31st, 2021

The fundamental aspect of a formalist critic is to visualize a literary work from the perspective of “language, structure and tone” (Meyer 1538). This form of criticism is more about the vibe of literature rather than the interpretation of its structural foundation. This is a new tool in the hands of a writer and the writer can benefit from it immensely as it provides the opportunity to explore a whole new world of literary understanding of insight, sensitivity, perception, and perspective.

If we analyze the approach of a formalist critic we would see that this form of criticism is more dependent on imageries presented in the text rather than the basics of the literature. Its approach appears to be more suited for criticism of poetry rather than novel or academic writings. However, this form of criticism can be beneficial if used properly. Maynard Mack’s “The World of Hamlet” is such an example of the able use of the approach. He interprets the character of Hamlet in a completely new level of understanding, and this is regarded as one of the finest examples of formalist strategies. Again, in Kate Choplin’s story “The Story of an Hour”, with a formalist approach, one can derive the ironic situation of the main character of the story. These are the occasions when a formalist critic can analyze and evaluate the fundamentals of a text without even describing the plot or the characters of the literature.

Thus, it is obvious that the formalist critic depends on the basic vibe of the literature rather than the literature itself. It can be well stated that this form of analysis or criticism is more intricate and sensitive. It can be stated as a responsive method because it directly deals with the inner core of the plot or structure of the literature and not the plot itself with the help of literary tools like ironies or paradoxes. It is also more susceptible in a sense because while dealing with elements like metaphors and symbols, it evokes the intention of the author in a more perceptive manner. It is difficult to reach such an outcome with the help of traditional tools of criticism like plot, settings, or characterizations of the literature.

Thus, it is obvious that the analysis of tone is more sensitive than analysis of plot or criticizing with the help of structure is more insightful than the use of characterizations. Similarly, with the use of language and its evaluation one would be able to present an intuitive vibe that, otherwise, would not evoke through a traditional style of criticism with the help of setting of the text. As a result, Shakespeare’s depiction of Hamlet as the principal avenger of the play along with his dealing with the senses of loss and frailty reaches a new level with the formalist discussion. Similarly, the symbolic equivocations in the story, along with the thematic depiction of renewal and rebirth, set the character of Mrs. Mallard alive in a different aspect.

However, it is not the objective to prove traditional criticism as an obsolete or unhelpful tool, rather it can be stated that the use of Formalist criticism has provided a new perspective of literal analysis that was not present earlier. In conclusion, it can be stated that Formalist criticism and strategies are a special part of literature review, and they just enrich the literature by deploying new avenues of discussion.

Works Cited

Meyer, Michael. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing. St. Martin’s: Bedford, 2008.

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