Russian Formalism & Eastern and Central European Literary Theory: A Centenary View

An international conference at the University of Sheffield's Prokhorov Centre for the Study of Central and East European Intellectual and Cultural History (15-16 May, 2015)


One of the most successful transnational European projects in the 20th century was Formalism and its heirs — Structuralism and, as some would argue, literary theory as such. Formalism profoundly affected intellectual trends in the Humanities and Social Sciences, well beyond literary analysis and linguistics. This conference will explore how the various local political, social and cultural contexts influenced the development of formalist thought, and how Eastern and Central Europe contributed to its, ultimately, universal career.


The conference marks the centenary of Russian Formalism, commemorating the publication of Victor Shklovsky’s “The Resurrection of the Word” (Voskreshenie slova, 1914), which was not only a milestone in the emergence of Formalism, but arguably also the beginning of the whole project of literary theory. However, in contrast to some other similar endeavors, this interdisciplinary conference focuses on the multinational and multicultural nature of Russian Formalism, and its interactions with/transformations into/influences upon the Prague Linguistic School, Polish Formalism, the Czech and Slovak forms of structuralism, as well as its subsequent Hungarian reconsiderations. 


In this context, the interrelationship between constructions of national and intercultural identities, between expert knowledge in one subject and transmutations of this knowledge into an interdisciplinary enterprise are not just abstract categories, but specific aspects of cultural practices. Shared, contested, disputed and migrating intellectual movements of this kind form an integral part of Eastern and Central European cultural memory — no history of the region, no modern history of ideas can be complete without it.


Topics for discussion will include the emergence of Russian Formalism with reference to the general intellectual context of the time; the migration of the theory beyond the borders of Russia and its integration and involvement into the dialogue with, local intellectual circles of Eastern and Central Europe; subsequent transformations of Russian Formalism into what later became the basis for structuralist theory in the humanities and social sciences, and for literary theory in general.


Consult the programme here:

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About us

ENN is the European Narratology Network, an association of individual narratologists and narratological institutions. ENN aims to foster the study of narrative representation in literature, film, digital media, etc. across all European languages and cultures.