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Poetika p.115.
Tomashevsky, B. V., Teorija /ituatury, Moskva-Leningrad,l925,p.l37.
Poetika, p.117.
Ibid., p.118. Shklovsky used several terms connected with weaving in describing his literary
theories. In the introduction to his collected essays on prose literature (0 Teorii Prozy, Krug,
Moskva-Leningrad, 1925) he says: 'ln the theory of literature 1 am concerned with analysing its
internal laws. To make an analogy in industrial terms, I am interested not in the 5ituation of the
wocld cotton market, not in the politics of the cotton combines, but only in the numbers of the
thread and the ways of weaving it.'

0 Teorii Prozy 2nd ed., Federatsija, Moskva, 1929, p.68.

Ibid., seeParodijnyj roman and OmamentaJ'naja proza.
0 Majakovskom, Sovetskij Pisatel', Moskva, 1940, p.ll8.
Although Shklovsky refers slightingly to Veselovsky's 'usual outlook' on literature his debt to him
is greater than to Potebnja. Veselovsky was sometimes conscious of the stylistic importance of
motifs and devices, and his statements are occasionally surprisingly Formalist jn tenor, e.g. on
psychological parallelism: 'Two motifs are compared, one prompts the other, they explain each
other, and here predominance rests on the side of the one which is full of human content.1t is like
interJacing variations of one and the same musical theme. which are mutually suggestive of each
other.' (Sobrante Sochinenij, St. Petersburg, 1913, tom I. p.153). Shklovsky would only have
quibbled with the explanation of'human content' for the predominance of one motif.
cf. Shklovsky's idea of a stock of images on which the writer can draw.
Sbklovsky is not consistent in his use of the word syuzhet and frequently used it where fabula
would have been more correct. His meaning is generally clear from the context, however.
Tomashevsky, op. cit., p.l34.
Ibid., p.l36.
Poetika, p.l28.
The Formalists often used the word 'thing' (v.shch') in referring to works of art.
0 Teorii Prozy, p.80; also Khod Konja, Gelikon, Moscow-Berlin, 1923, p.l16.
Poetika, p. l24.
Sobranie Sochinenij, tom I, pp.86-129.
Veselovsky frequently used the term 'device' but in a far more inclusive sense than the Formalist
It can be said of Shklovsky's approach that the element of guesswork involved in historical and
social research is reduced to a minimum if the critic limits himself to the text itself, and to comparisons with other known texts.
Poetika, pp.l31- 2.
Sbklovsky himself uses this device in Khod Konja which is held together at the beginning and end
by descriptions ofPetrograd in 1920.
Various terms are used to describe devices which hold up the progress of the plot: 'retardation'
(zamed/enie), 'arrestation' (zaderzhanie, zaderzhka), 'impeded form' (zatrudnjonnaja forma),
braking' (tormozhenie), 'making difficult' (zatrudnenie). In a note to 'The Connection ... '
Sbklovsky describes the device thus: 'The aim of this device is to construct a work that is sensed
and perceived. With a prosaic perception of the device the result is impatient listeners and a desire
to break of!' the story.' (Poetika, pp.l49-150).
Ibid., p.l34.
The device is 'perceived' and is 'poetic' only if it is successfully tied up with the plot as a whole,if not the work is a failure.
Poetika, p.l24.
Ibid., p.l43, cf. the book Khod Konja ('Knight's Move'). The indirect movement of the knight in
chess represents the conventionality of art.

The Resurrection of the

Viktor Shklovsky

The word- the image and its fossilisation. The epithet as a means of
renewal of the word. The history of the epithet - the history of poetic
style. The fate of works of old artists of the word is of the same nature
as the fate of the word itself: they complete the journey from poetry to
prose. The death of things. The aim of Futurism is the resurrection of
things- the return to man of sensation of the world. The connection of
the devices of the Futurists' poetry with the devices of general linguistic
thought-processes. The semi-comprehensible language of ancient
poetry. The language of the Futurists.


~~ ~~~;,~~!;(betic form of a certain historical period may, however, become an art form in a different

period. Sbklovsky develops his theory on literary evolution more specifically in Tristram Shandy
Sternea i Teorija Romano (Petrograd, 1921, later as Parodijnyj Roman in 0 Teorii Prozy .)
Evolution is closely connected to parody, and be mentions this just briefly in 'The Connection . . . '
(Poetika, p . l20) in stressing the relativity of art forms to other art forms.
The period 1927- 1930 saw the emergence of 'factographic' literature, in which reportage, biography, documentary materials etc. were considered to be proper contemporary replacements for
Poetika, p. ll7.
'I am afraid of making tny analysis of the novel too detailed and of interest only to specialists,
since it is difficult for the non~specialist to master in each tiny detail the manifestation of the
general laws of art, while I myself am not a storyteller, but a demonstrator.' (0 Ttorii Prozy, p.l74).
Poetika, p.l43.
Ibid., p.l34.
Ibid., p.l43.
Ibid., p.l39.
cf. the titles of some of the Formalist essays: Xak sdelan Don Xikhot ('How "Don Quixote" is
Made'- Shklovsky); Kak sdelan, Shine/' Gogo/fa ('How Gogo!'~ "Over<:oat" ! Made'- Eikhe~
batlm). At one time Shklovsky mtended to produce a book w1th the title S1uzhet kak Jav/emt
Sti/ja ('Plot as a Manifestati?n ofSt~le'), which ~ould elaborate on~~ theocies.advance'!.in 'The
Connection . . . 'The matenal for tb1s book (wb1ch never appeared) 1s mcluded m 0 Teom Prozy.


The most ancient poetic creation of man was the creation of words.
Now words are dead, and language is like a graveyard, but an image
was once alive in the newly-born word. Every word is basically - a
trope. For example mesyats ('moon'; 'month'): the original meaning
of this word was 'measurer' (Russ. meritel'); grief (Russ. gore, pechal';
cf. goret' = to burn, pech' = to bake) and sorrow mean that which
burns and scorches; the word 'enfant' Uust like the Old Russian
'otrok' ('boy'; 'child') as well) in a literal translation means 'not
speaking'. As many such examples as there are words in language
could be adduced. And often enough, when you get through to the
image which is now lost and effaced, but once embedded at the basis of
the word, then you are struck by its beauty- by a beauty which
existed once and is now gone.
When words are being used by our thought-processes in place of
general concepts, and serve, so to speak, as algebraic symbols, and
must needs be devoid of imagery, when they are used in everyday
speech and are not completely enunciated or completely heard, then
they have become familiar, and their internal (image) and external
(sound) forms have ceased to be sensed. We do not sense the familiar,


we do not see it, but recognise it. We do not see the walls of our rooms
it i~ so ~ard for us to spot a misprint in a proof- particularly if it i~
wntten m a language well known to us, because we cannot make
ourselves see and read through, and not 'recognise' the familiar word.
I~ we _should

wish to make a definition of 'poetic' and 'artistic' perception m general, then doubtless we would hit upon the definition :
'artistic' perceptiDn is perception in.which form is sensed (perhaps not
only form, butform-as-an ess~1).tiafpart). It is easy to demonstrate the
, correctness of this 'working' definition in those instances when some
expression or other, having been poetic, becomes prosaic. For
example, it is evident that the expressions - the 'foot' (Russ. podoshva)
of a mountain or the 'chapter' (Russ. glava) of a book, in their passage
from poetry to prose, have not changed their mea.ilillg; but have only
lost their form (in the given instance - internal foim]. The experiment
proposed by A. Gornfel'd in the article 'Torments of the Word' - to
transpose the words in the poem:
Stikh, kak monetu, chekan',
Strogo, otchetlivo, chestno.
Pravilu sledui uporno:
Chtoby slovam bylo tesno,
Myslyam- prostorno, -

alive and preciDus. And this is where there appeared the epithet,
which does not introduce anything new into the word , but simply
renews its dead figurativeness; for example: the bright sun, (Russ.
solntse yasnoe = literally 'clear sun'), the bold warrior, the wide
world, (Russ. belyi svet = literally 'white world:_), miry mud, rain
shower ... the very word 'dozhd", ('rain'), contains the concept of
scattering,.. but> the image has died, and the thirst for conc,~;eteness,
which constitutes tlie sout of. art (Carlyle), demanded its renewal.
The word, revitalised by the epithet, became poetic once more. Time
passed - and the epithet ceased to be sensed - again because of its
familiarity. AQ<Ltl;l~ epithet.b egan to -be handled through habit, by
virtue of scholastic:t:raditiorui. and-not through living poetic feeling.
Moreover, the epithet is by now sensed so little that quite often its
application cuts right across the general situation and colouring of the
picture; for example:
Burn, burn, you tallow candle,
Tallow candle of ardent wax ...
or the 'white hands' of the blackmoor (the Serbian epos), 'my true
love' of the Old English ballads, a term applied in them indiscriminately - whether it is a case of either true or untrue love, or Nestor,
raising his hands to the starry sky in broad daylight, and so on.

(Verse, like coins, mint

Strictly, precisely, honestly.
Follow the rule stubbornly:
So that words may be compact,
Thoughts - expansive ... )
~n order to satisfy himself that with the loss of form (in the given
mstance - external form) the poem changes into a 'commonplace
didactic aphorism,' - this experiment confirms the correctness of the
proposed definition.

Therefore: the word, as it loses 'form', completes the irrevocable

journey from poetry to prose. (Potebnya: Lectures on the Theory of
This loss of the form of the word represents a great easement for the
thought-processes and may be a necessary condition for the existence
of science, but art could never be satisfied with this eroded word . It
could hardly be said that poetry has made up the damage it has
su~ered t~ough th~ loss ~f the figurativeness of words by replacing
this figurativeness With a higher type of creation -for example by the
creation of character-types, because in such a case poetry would not
~ave held on so avidly to the figurative word even at such high stages of
Its evolution as in the era of epic chronicles. In art, material must l::?e


Constant epithets have worn smooth, no longer evoke a figurative

impression and do not satisfy its demands. Within their limits new
epithets are created, they accumulate, and definitions become
diversified through descriptive terms borrowed from the material of
the saga or legend (Alexander Veselovsky: The History of the Epithet).
Complex epithets too relate to most recent times.
'The history of the epithet - is the history of poetic style in an abridged
edition.' (A. Veselovsky: Collected Works, Vol. 1, p.58). This history
shows us how all forms of art always recede from life, forms which,
just like the epithet, live, fossilise and finally die.
People pay too little attention to the death offorms in art, they all too
flippantly contrast the old with the new without thinking whether the
old is alive or has already vanished, as the sound of the sea vanishes
for those who live by its shores, as the thousand-voiced roar of the
town has vanished for us, as everything familiar, too well known,
disappears from our consciousness.
Not only words and epithets fos_silise, whole situations can fossilise
too. Thus, for example, in the Baghdad edition of the Arabian.Nights
a traveller, whom robbers have stripped naked, ascended a mountain

and in desperation 'tore his clothes to shreds'. In this extract the whole
picture has become congealed to the point of unconsciousness.
The fate of the works of old artists of the word is exactly the same as
the fate of the word itself. They are completing the journey from
poetry to prose. They cease to be seen and begin to be recognised.
Classical works have for us become covered with the glassy armour of
familiarity - we remember them too well, we have heard them from
childhood, we have read them in books, thrown out quotations from
' them in the course of conversation, and now we have callouses on our
souls - we longer sense them. I am speaking about the masses. Many
people think that the masses sense all art. But how easy it is to make
mistakes here! Goncharov not without reason sceptically compared
the sensation of the classicist when reading a Greek drama with the
sensations of Gogol's Petrushka. It is often quite impossible to
assimilate old art. Look at the books of the renowned connoisseurs
of classicism - see what trite vignettes and photos of broken down
sculptures they put on the covers. Rodin, having copied Greek sculptures for years on end, had to resort to measuring them in order,
eventually, to transmit their forms; it turned out that he had been
carving them too thin all the time. So a genius could not simply repeat
the forms of another age. And the raptures of the profane in the
museums can be explained only by their flippancy and undemanding
attitude towards their own assimilation of antiquity.
The illusion that old art is sensed is supported by the fact that elements
alien to art are often present in it. Such elements are in fact found
above all in literature; therefore literature now has hegemony in art
and the largest number of connoisseurs. What is typical for artistic
perception is our material disinterestedness in it. Exhilaration at the
speech of one's defence counsel in the law court is not an artistic
sensation, and, if we sense the nobility and humanity of the thoughts of
the most humane poets in the world, then these sensations have
nothing in common with art. They were never poetry, and therefore
have not completed the journey from poetry to prose either. The
existence of people who place N adson higher than Tyutchev also shows
that writers are often valued from the point of view of the quantity of
noble thoughts contained in their works, a yardstick very widespread,
by the way, amongst the young in Russia. The apotheosis of the
sensing of 'art' from the point of view of its 'nobility' is the case of the
two students in Chekhov's The Old Teacher, one of whom asks the
other in the theatre: 'What is he saying there? Something noble?' 'Yes, something noble'. 'Bravo!'.
Here we have the outline of the attitude of the critics to new tendencies
in art.

Go out into the street, look at the houses: how are the forms of old art
applied in them? You will see quite nightmarish things. For example,
(a house on Nevsky Prospekt opposite Konyushennaya Street, a
building of the architect Lyalevich) semi-circular arches rest on
columns, and between their abutments are inserted crosspieces, of
rough-faced stone, like flat arches. This whole system has thrust at the
edges - there are no supports at the actual sides; so the entire impression created is that the house is crumbling and falling.
This architectural absurdity (not noticed by the general public and
critics) cannot be due, in the given instance, to the ignorance or lack of
talent of the architect.
The fault is obviou,sly that the form and meaning of the arch (and the
form of the cohiiun foo, which can also be demonstrated) are not
sensed, and are therefore applied as nonsensically as the application
of the epithet 'tallow~to the wax candle.
Let us now see how people make quotations from the old authors.
Unfortunately no-one has yet collected incorrectly and inaptly applied
quotations; but the material is interesting. At performances of the
Futurists' drama the public shouted 'eleventh verst', 'madness' and
' Ward 6', and the newspapers reported these howls with some
satisfaction- whereas surely in 'Ward 6' there weren't any madmen,
but just a doctor sitting in it through ignorance, surrounded by idiots,
along with some sort of philosopher-sufferer figure. So this work of
Chekhov was dragged in (from the point of view of those who shouted)
completely irrelevantly. We observe here, so to speak, a fossilised
quotation, which signifies the same thing as the fossilised epithet lack of sensation (in the example given the whole work has become
fossilised) .
The broad masses are satisfied with market-place art, but marketplace art shows the death of art. At one time people said to each other
when they met: 'zdravstvui' ('Hel1o') - now the word has died - and
we say to each other 'aste'. The legs of our chairs, the design of
materials, the decoration of houses, the pictures of the 'Petersburg
Society of Artists', the sculptures of Gintsburg - all these say to us
'aste'. Here the decoration is not made, it is 'narrated' and relies on
people not seeing it, but on their recognising it and saying - 'it's the
same'. The golden ages of art did not know the meaning of 'bazaar
furniture'. In Assyria - the pole of a soldier's tent, in Greece- the
statue of Hecuba, the guardian of the rubbish tip, in the Middle Ages decorations placed so high up thatthey couldn't even be seen very well

-all these were made, they were all designed for admiring scrutiny.
In eras when the forms of art were alive no-one would have brought
bazaar monstrosities into the house. When artisan icon-painting
spread in Russia in the 17th century, and 'in the icons there appeared
such violence and absurdities as were not fitting for a Christian even
to look at', this meant that the old forms were already superseded.
Nowadays the old art has already died, the new has not yet been born;
and things have died- we have lost our awareness of the world; we
are like a violi nist who has ceased to feel the bow and the strings, we
pave ceased to be artists in everyday life, we do not love our houses and
clothes, and easily part from a life of which we are not aware. Only the
creation of new forms of art can restore to man sensation of the world,
can resurrect things and kill pessimism.

When we wish, through a surge of tenderness or malice, to caress or

insult a person, then we have but a few worn-out, bare words for this,
and we then crumple up and break up words to make them strike the
ear, so that they should be seen and not recognised. We say, for
example, to a man - 'silly old woman', (Russ. dura ('fool'), feminine
gender, instead of masculine form durak) to make the word grate; or,
among the common folk ('The Office' by Turgenev) they use the
feminine gender instead of the masculine to express tenderness. Also
in this category come all the countless words that are simply mutilated,
so many of which all of us use when speaking in moments of passion
and which are so hard to remember.
And now, today, when the artist wishes to deal with living form and
with the living, not the dead, word, and wishes to give the word features,
he has broken it down and mangled it up. The 'arbitrary' and 'derived'
words of the Futurists have been born. They either create the new
word from an old root (Khlebnikov, Guro, Kamensky, Gnedov) or
split it up by rhyme, like Mayakovsky, or give it incorrect stress by use
of the rhythm of verse (Kruchenykh). New, living words are created.
The ancient diamonds of words recover their former brilliance. This
new language is incomprehensible, difficult, and cannot be read like the
Stock Exchange Bulletin. It is not even like Russian, but we have
become too used to setting up comprehensibility as a necessary
requirement of poetic language. The history of art shows us that (at
least very often) the language of poetry is not a comprehensible
language, but a semi-comprehensible one. Thus, savages often sing in
an archaic or alien tongue, sometimes so incomprehensible that the
singer (or, more correctly, the lead singer) must translate and explain
to the choir and audience the meaning of the song he has just composed.
(Veselovsky, Three Chapters from Historical Poetics: Grosse, The
Beginnings of Art.)

The religious poetry of almost all peoples is written in just such a semicomprehensible language. Church-Slavonic, Latin, Sumerian, which
died out in the 20th century B.C. and was used as a religious language
until the 3rd Century, the German language of the Russian Stundists
(the Russian Stundists preferred for a long time not to translate the
German religious hymns into Russian, but to learn German. Dostolevsky: 'Diaryofa Writer').
Jakob Grimm, Hoffmann, Hebel, point out that the ordinary folk
often sing not in dialect, but in an elevated language, close to the
literary one: 'the incanted Yakut language is differentiated from the
everyday language just as our Slavonic is from the present-day conversational language'. (Korolenko : 'At-Da van'). Arnaut Daniel with his
dark style, impeded forms of art (Schwere Kunstmanier) , cruel (harte)
forms (Diez: Leben und Werke der Troubadour, p .285), which present
difficulties in pronunciation, the dolce stil nuovo (I 3th Century) of the
Italians - all these are semi-comprehensible lang1.1ages, while Aristotle
in Poetics (Chapter 23) advises giving language a foreign aspect. The
explanation of these facts is that this sort of semi-comprehensible
language seems to the reader, by reason of its unfamiliarity, more
figurative(afact noted, by the way, by D. N. Ovsyanniko-Kulikovsky).
The writers of past times wrote too smoothly, too sweetly. Their
things were reminiscent of that polished surface of which Korolenko
spoke: 'across it runs the plane of thought, touching nothing.' The
creation of a new, 'tight' (Russ. tugoi-Kruchenykh's term) language
is necessary, directed at seeing, and not at recognition. And this
necessity is unconsciously felt by many people.
The paths of the new art have only been indicated. It is not theoreticians, but artists who will travel those paths ahead of all others.
Whether those who will create the new forms will be the Futurists, or
whether this achievement is destined for others - at any rate the
Futurist (Translator's Note: In these instances the term used for
'Futurists' is Budetlyane; elsewhere the term used is Futuristy) poets
are on the right path: they have correctly evaluated the old forms .
Their poetic devices are the devices of general linguistic thoughtprocesses, simply introduced by them into poetry, just as, in the first
centuries of Christianity, rhyme was introduced into poetry, rhyme
which had probably always existed in language.
The realisation of new creative devices, which were also met with in
poets of the past- for example in the Symbolists- but just by accident
- is by itself a great undertaking. And it has been accomplished by the
Translated by Richard Sherwood