Any topic (writer’s choice)

1. According to Shklovsky, what are the downsides to human perception (how we see things) becoming “habitual” or “automatic”?

2. In the opening of the article he compares this type of habitual perception to algebra. Explain this comparison. Can you think of an example where something you know very well becomes easy to skip over, not notice, or understood quickly without fully perceiving it?

3. What does he say “habitualization devours”? What does art exist to recover? Why is this important in the author’s opinion? In your own opinion?

4. Shklovsky gives many references to Russian literature and it’s ok if many of the names/references are not known to you. For our purposes, we will focus on one; he describes, at length, a scene from Tolstoy’s famous novel War and Peace. What was Tolstoy’s technique of describing war/battles? When Tolstoy employed this technique of “making strange the familiar” throughout his lengthy novels–why did the public/readers at the time (think of the context of pre-Revolutionary Russia) react “painfully wounded”? Cite the example Shklovsky gives.

5. Now consider your own culture/context and reflect. Has there been a moment where a film, TV show, painting, book, poem, song (any form of media) presented something sacred, traditional, incredibly common–essentially understood in one way and “defamiliarized it” –what was the public’s reaction? You are encouraged to use multimodal evidence here (pictures, screenshots, media, etc).

For example: For me, I remember photographing kitchens everywhere I traveled. These were ordinary, humble kitchens. The people I would stay with would always feel very confused. They would say, “it’s just a kitchen!– we will take you to sightsee to take photos! It will not be a good photo!” But as a traveler, (a stranger), I found everyday objects looked very unique and special to me again, something that rarely happens in my own kitchen unless I am in an artistic mindset (a defamiliarizing perception)–when the hosts would view my photos they would often feel surprised. This is my moment of as Shklovsky says: “making the stone, stony again.” See my photos at the bottom of this page ** and comment if you like.

6. On language and word choice–Shklovsky cites Aristotle who called poetic language as something “strange and wondrous”,
Shklovsky goes on to define prose as “ordinary speech” and poetic language as “formed speech”–it is a “roughened language.”

I do not feel this formed speech must exist in the form of poetry alone. As we know, Tolstoy did this in his 1000 page novels.

Find an example of something we have read thus far where the word choice, the style of the sentence, the use of imagery is somehow roughened, defamiliarized so that we pay attention to it. What effect does it have on the audience? How does it help the author portray their message? How does it speak to/ offend/ surprise/ awaken the context it is being written in?

*Bonus: GA paper tip. If you have begun reading the short stories (Kafka, O’Brien, Hemon) you might use this question as you read to pay attention to style, phrasing, word choice, etc.

7. Reflection: look again at this section of the essay and connect the ideas here to those presented in the other essay you read, Czeslaw Milosz “Notes on Exile.” Write an approx 150 word response on how art and exile mentality (being the stranger, being estranged) go together, helps as Milosz says, “us see through our self-delusions.”


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