El formalismo ruso es uno de los movimientos de teoría y crítica de la literatura más importantes del siglo XX. Surgió en Rusia entre 1914 y los años 30. Se divide principalmente en dos escuelas, la escuela de Moscú liderada por V. Shklovsky y la escuela de Praga liderada por Roman Jakobson.”. In words of Viktor Shklovsky, leader of Moscow Linguistic Circle, the main aim of Russian formalism is "crear formas complicadas, incrementar la dificultad y la extensión de la percepción, ya que, en estética, el proceso de percepción es un fin en sí mismo y, por lo tanto, debe prolongarse". Scklovsky defends Futurism because this movement is based on form, the reader must concentrate his attention on form. Scklovsky defends an anti-contenidist aesthetic, based on significants, on materials. And in literature materials are sounds Scklovsky concentrates on the analysis of rhytmic and fonetic characteristics of poetry. ( )


There are, in the chronology of Russian formalism, two main stages: the first one, from 1915 to 1920, characterised by the confrontation and controversy with Positivism, and the second one, from 1920 to 1930, characterised by the maturity and an expansion in the study field. According to the glossary of literary theory of the University of Toronto English Library, the formalism in terms of literature is an application of the linguistic model to literature. Here the content is the motivation of form, and the literary work is an assemblage of devices which work in a total textual system. Literariness (a term introduced by Jakobson in his The new Russian: it’s those that converts a work in a literary work: a text is literary because it uses language in a special way. It refers to several devices who convert natural language to literary language) arises when these devices, normally perceived by the reader to be familiar and conventional, are seen at first sight, and the effect upon the reader is one of defamiliarization. Literature deautomatizes one's perceptions, composing a deliberate set of deviations from the norms of ordinary language. Formalists introduced too the term of “significant aesthetic”: they said that there is to intensify the perception of the form, because the aesthetic value is just on the formal perceptibility.  ( ).


Apart from Scklovsky, the main authors of this influential school were Tinianov, Eichenbaum, Jakobson and Jakubinsky. They made a revolution on literary criticism by establishing the specificity and autonomy of poetic language. Jakubinsky said that literary language was characterised by its opaque form (the perception of its formal elements). Russian formalism exerted a major influence on thinkers such as Bakhtin (an author who thought that in literary texts was shown the ideology of their authors) and on structuralism (this one was the following school, and at the beginning was very similar to formalism). The movement's members are widely considered the founders of modern literary criticism. ( ).


Russian formalism is well-known for its emphasis on the functional role of literary devices and its original conception of literary history. Formalists invented a scientific method for studying poetic language. As Erlich points out “the formalist theoreticians focused on the 'distinguishing features' of literature, on the artistic devices peculiar to imaginative writing”. ( ).



The literary fact has to be prioritized over the metaphysical commitments of literary criticism.(…) The formalists agreed on the autonomous nature of poetic language and its specificity as an object of study for literary criticism. Their main endeavour consisted in defining a set of properties specific to poetic language. Formalists said: "Literary works, according to this model, resemble machines: they are the result of an intentional human activity in which a specific skill transforms raw material into a complex mechanism suitable for a particular purpose" (Steiner, "Russian Formalism" 18). In Art as device (1916), Scklovsky says that the word must be considered as an object, a thing that could be used to create half-words, neologisms, etc., and explains that art is a sum of literary and artistic devices that the artist manipulates to create his work. (…) Literature was considered, on the one hand, to be a social or political product where it was then interpreted as an integral part of social and political history. On the other hand, literature was considered to be the personal expression of an author's world vision, expressed by means of images and symbols. The aim of Shklovsky is to isolate and define something specific to literature: these, are the devices which make up the "artfulness" of literature.(…) Formalists do not agree with one another on exactly what a device is, nor how these devices are used or how they are to be analysed in a given text. The central idea, however, is more general: poetic language possesses specific properties, which can be analysed as such. (, ).


One of the most famous dichotomies introduced by the Formalists is a distinction between story and plot: story is a chronological sequence of events, whereas plot can appear in non-chronological order. (…) Shklovsky very soon realized that this model had to be expanded to embrace, for example, contemporaneous and diachronic literary traditions. Literature constitutes part of the cultural system.(…) As such, it interacts with other human activities, for instance, linguistic communication.

 ( ).


Russian formalism was not a uniform movement. The contribution of the Formalist School to today’s literary scholarship lies in the fact that it has focused on the basic problems of literary study.(…) It modified our conception of the literary work and its component parts.

There is no direct historical relationship between New Criticism and Russian formalism,  both of them having developed at around the same time but independently each of the other. However, there are several similarities: both movements showed an interest in considering literature on its own terms, a focus on the literary devices and a critical focus on poetry. ( ).





















·        Erlich, Victor. "Russian Formalism: In Perspective." The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 13:2 (1954): 215-25.

·        Steiner, Peter. "Russian Formalism." The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism. Ed. Raman Selden. Vol. 8. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. 11-29. 8 vols.

·        Apuntes de Teoría de la literatura, curso 2004-2005, por José Luis Falcó.