Topic outline

  • Formalism

    Formalism attempts to treat each work as its own distinct piece, free from its environment, era, and even author. This point of view developed in reaction to forms of 'extrinsic' criticism that viewed the text as either the product of social and historical forces or a document making an ethical statement. Formalists assume that the keys to understanding a text exist within "the text itself" (a common saying among New Critics), and thus focus a great deal on form i.e. the inherent features of a text that include not only grammar and syntax but also literary devices such as meter and tropes. The formalistic approach reduces the importance of a text’s historical, biographical, and cultural context and instead focuses on modes, genres, discourse, and forms.