Dashkova Centre

Russian Formalism and the Thought of/from Outside

In 1966, Michel Foucault wrote about a ‘thought of/from the outside’ within Maurice Blanchot’s work. Unlike Blanchot, the Russian Formalists practiced less abstract thinking or literary writing and more a scientific method of literary study; however their method was also characterized by a radical externalism, which excluded any hermeneutics or Einfühlung, any idea of creative subject.

What are the literary objects observable from outside? First, the texts, considered like ‘things’, and in this way the Formalists appeared to follow Durkheim’s positivism. Second, the structures – but structures of forces rather than those of mental relations. Third, the dynamic interactions between texts (in literary evolution) and between texts and social life (the byt). All these factors shape the meaning (the ‘content’) of a work but don’t have themselves a semantic nature; they systematically exceed the word as traditional object of philological studies. They are to be ‘understood’, not as significations but as acts, intensities of reception or anonymous processes of evolution.

This presentation will explore four aspects of the formalist externalism – the formal, the mimetic, the nomothetic and the historical. It also aims to demonstrate that the ideas of Russian theorists converged with some aspects of 20th century European philosophy, but in a different intellectual context.

Joint Dashkova Russian Centre and Russian Department Open Research Seminar.

Vasily Kandinsky - Composition 8

Russian Formalism and the Thought of/from Outside

This presentation by Professor Sergei Zenkin will explore four aspects of the formalist externalism – the formal, the mimetic, the nomothetic and the historical.

The Princess Dashkova Russian Centre
14 Buccleuch Place
Edinburgh
EH8 9LN