Though not explicitly addressed as such, the literary topos plays a crucial role in Russian literary theorist Victor Shklovsky’s Theory of Prose (1925). On the backdrop of a critical discussion of the ‘symbolist’ conception of literature and of the ‘ethnographical school’s’ exploration of literary motifs, Shklovsky here presents what can be understood as a genuine topological poetics: A poetics bent on the ‘formulaic’ as quintessential literary device. Rather than a figuration of the author’s ideas literary images are, according to Shklovsky, conventional formulas that circulate in language. Rather than collective commemorations of original customs literary motifs exhibit literature’s revitalization of ‘automatized’ language. Thus redefined as topoi in this most basic sense – as commonplaces or repetitions of existing forms – literary images and motifs become key to understanding ‘literariness’ itself as a redeeming ‘estrangement’ of dead language forms and to conceptualizing literary history as a chain of successive estrangements. Qualifying the topos as self-referential, estranging device, Theory of Prose thus presents an original if also thought-provoking contribution to topology. However, it ultimately rest on a today questionable literary philosophical premise: The idea of literature as a privileged discursive space where the lost ideality of the life-world is recreated.
|Journal||K & K|
|Publication status||Published - 2017|