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The Art of Defamiliarization in Adgar Allan Poe’s Short Stories

Author KangYu
Tutor ZhanChunJuan
School Anhui University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Adgar Allan Poe Russian Formalism Defamiliarization Unity ofEffect
CLC I712.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2013
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Adgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) as a transitional figure in American literary history takes up a unique place for his original style and experimenting spirit in literary creation. He is regarded now as the father of the detective story genre and scientific fiction genre and forerunner of psychoanalysis writing. He proposed the literary theory of "unity of effect" and untiringly applied it in his poetry and short stories.Russian Formalism, which originated in the1920s, is widely considered the foundation of modern literary criticism. It focuses more on the literariness of literary works, paying particular attention to the analysis of the devices used in literary works and to the patterns these devices form. Defamiliarization theory, as an important concept of the Russian Formalism, was first proposed by Victor Shklovsky (1893-1984) in1917. According to this theory, literary creation should be aimed at achieving the effect of defamiliarization, which means to employ all kinds of devices to make the familiar objects unfamiliar to the readers so as to increase the difficulty of perception and prolong the length of aesthetic enjoyment.Poe’s aesthetic ideas and literary proposals possess great similarities with the Russian Formalists’views. Therefore, Poe’s literary works show a strong color of modern literature which might look odd and strange in the age he lived in.This thesis attempts to study the defamiliarization features of Adgar Allan Poe’s short stories under the guidance of the theory of defamiliarization. Poe’s short stories are full of defamiliarized factors on all levels which endow his short stories with a peculiar mixed feature of obscurity and enchantment. Readers have to wreck their minds to explore the indication beneath the surface.This thesis is composed of six parts. The first chapter is a general introduction to Adgar Allan Poe and his works, the literary review about him, the significance and structure of this thesis. Chapter two is a theoretical basis for the whole thesis, including a general introduction to Russian Formalism, the theory of defamiliarization and a comparison between the aesthetical and critical views of Russian Formalists and Adgar Allan Poe. The following four parts are devoted to a detailed analysis of the defamiliarization factors in Poe’s short stories on four levels:language, narration, theme, and characterization.By a comprehensive analysis of Poe’s creation from the four aspects mentioned above, this thesis attempts to interpret the art of defamiliarization in Poe’s literary creation that fully illustrates Poe’s originality in creation and his mastery in various writing techniques.

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