A Hundred Years of Ostranenie: an International Conference
University of Erfurt, December 15-17 2016
Organizers: Alexandra Berlina and Holt Meyer, University of Erfurt
A century ago, in 1916, a young student named Viktor Shklovsky self-published his precocious essay-cum-manifesto “Art as Device”. In it, he coined a term which became crucial in literary studies, and important in the study of cinema and visual art: ostranenie. Also known as “defamiliarization”, “estrangement”, “enstrangement”, “making strange” and “foregrounding” in English, and – causing confusion with Brecht’s concept – as “Verfremdung” in German, ostranenie is about rendering the usual extraordinary and thus making the reader (or viewer) perceive it anew. Or is it? The way Shklovsky uses the term in “Art as Device” is ambiguous enough; if we also consider his later and lesser-known works as well as the scholarly legacy of ostranenie, we arrive at an array of meanings worthy of a fundamental investigation, thus our suggestion to make this subject the topic of a conference.
A hundred years of ostranenie has not been a hundred years of solitude for the concept. It has been commented on and developed in countless ways, in monographs and in whole special issues of scholarly periodicals.
Tracing these paths is tracing the history of modern literary theory itself. The OPOYAZ – the Society for the Study of Poetic Language, which formed in Petrograd around Shklovsky – also celebrates its centennial in 2016. The work of its members influenced
structuralism, but tracing a straight line from Russian formalism to structuralism is a misleading simplification.
Reader-response criticism and cognitive poetics arguably owe as much to formalism as does structuralism. As regards literary heritage,
some writers – such as Yuri Olesha and Bertolt Brecht – were directly influenced by the concept of ostranenie, and many others exhibit a wealth of ostranenie in their work which remains to be discussed. The conference is international and interdisciplinary; scholars beyond Slavic and literary departments are expressly invited.
Ostranenie features in diverse literatures, and in other cultural products than literary fiction – comic strips, films, paintings… The heritage of ostranenie in art and scholarship, as well as its fate in Shklovsky’s later works (especially his ‘recanting’), is the conference’s key focus.
The subfields may include, but are not restricted to: translating the terminology of ostranenie; ostranenie
in world literature; forms and functions of ostranenie; ostranenie, cognition and emotion; ostranenie, Russianness and the East; ostranenie, rhetoric and irony; ostranenie, diversion andentertainment; ostranenie and deconstruction; ostranenie
and Romanticism; ostranenie, war, andterror; literary sources of ostranenie discussed by Shklovsky (Sterne, Tolstoy etc.); the media ofostranenie (visual arts, film, music and mediality in general).
Keynote speaker will be the noted scholar of Russian Formalism Aage A. Hansen-Löve.
Abstracts of 150-300 words, accompanied by a brief bio (incl. affiliation), are welcome at email@example.com until February 1st 2016.