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Literariness

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English

Literariness is a type of formal writing style used to differentiate between literary and non-literary texts. Literariness comes with a distinct style in order to set it apart from other forms of writing. It is a mix of both linguistic and formal devices that use specific criteria to measure a text's quality. There are no direct synonyms for literariness, but words like, 'poetical', 'dramatic' or 'formal', may be used to describe it.

Literariness is very different from literature. Literature refers to any written work, but specifically prose, poetry and plays. Literariness is a theory used to measure the quality of these works. It is important to recognize this difference.

What is Literariness?

There are three schools of thought.

Roman Jakobson

Roman Jakobson coined the term literariness when he stated that literariness was a characteristic set of textual properties. Jakobson's idea was that literariness is something that is quantifiable. He mainly used rhyme, meter and repetition to show this. Jakobson used this theory to study Russian literature, such as the works of Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy.

Rolf Zwaan

In contrast to Jakobson, Rolf Zwaan, said that literariness was the result of applying a set of conventions. This differs from Jakobson's theory because it focused on how literariness impacts a reader's understanding of a narrative. Zwaan's theory of literariness focused on narrative comprehension, rather than literary devices. The theory was used to study newspaper articles.

David Miall

David Miall argued that literariness is now an outdated way to view a text. He disagreed with both Jakobson and Zwaan. He says that literariness is created by a specific form of reading, caused by three key components. In the next section of this article, we will look at Miall's three components of literariness, and discuss some examples.

Different Components of Literariness

According to Miall, there are three key components to literariness.

A distinctive style

The text will be written in a distinctive style associated with literary texts. This will be seen in the use of literary devices like metaphor, personification and simile. These devices are often found in literature, so can be used to measure literariness. Let's consider the poem 'The World is too Much with Us' (1807), by William Wordsworth.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; -

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not. Great God! I'd rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn

We can see that the poet uses personification and metaphor in this poem. The presence of these devices indicates the text's literary quality.

Defamiliarization

The second key component used to determine literariness is defamiliarization. Defamiliarization is a literary device where the author takes a familiar concept, and then writes about it in a way that is unfamiliar to the reader. When the writer talks about a normal object, it will be presented in an unusual way. This is done through devices like metaphor and personification. The first component (distinctive style) is used to create the second component (defamiliarization). Let's look at an example of this in an extract from 'The World is too Much With Us' (1807).

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; -

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;

Literariness Waves at Night StudySmarterWaves at Night pixabay.com

Here, we can see that the writer is talking about something familiar, in an unfamiliar way. In this extract, the poet uses 'This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon' to present the waves at night. He does this through the use of personification. Romantic poets deeply respected nature, and specifically the sea. They talked about nature by using the sublime. Sublime imagery is used to describe emotions that are extraordinary. By using sublimity, Wordsworth defamiliarizes the sea so the reader thinks of nature in a new way. The distinctive style outlined in component one is necessary to create defamiliarization for component two. We can also see that the two components are fundamental for creating literariness in a text.

Transformation of a normal feeling

The final component of literariness is the transformation of a normal feeling. A text that possesses literariness will cause the reader to experience emotion in a new way. The combined effect of the previous two components will cause the reader to process the defamiliarization that is caused by the unique writing style of a literary text. Reread the extract of 'The World is too Much With Us' below!

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; -

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;

We can see that the poet's use of personification and metaphor has created a sense of defamiliarization in the text. The waves are now defamiliarized to the reader. The reader processes a new feeling that the poet has created towards this object. We can see that the three components are present in the text. Hence, there is literariness to this poem!

Literary Terms

What are literary terms?

Metaphor

This is a type of figurative language, where one thing is described as though it is another. This is important for creating a sense of defamiliarization in a text, as it presents a familiar idea or object, as something different! Read this example by Emily Dickinson's 'Hope is the thing with feathers' (1891), to see how a metaphor can create defamiliarization.

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune - without the words,

And never stops at all,

The metaphor in bold has created defamiliarization. It presents hope as a bird, so the concept becomes defamiliarized and defamiliarizing. The reader will now engage with hope in a new way. Dickinson creates literariness here by using the three components.

Personification

This is a form of figurative language where something non-human is given human characteristics. It can be used by writersto defamiliarise the object that is being personified. Let's look at an example of personification in 'The Thought Fox' (1973) and see how it affects the piece's literariness:

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox

It enters the dark hole of the head.

Ted Hughes uses personification in the line, 'sudden sharp hot stink of fox'. Thought is personified as a fox. This creates literariness within the text!

Neologism

This is a literary device that can help create defamiliarization in a text. It occurs when a writer decides to invent a new word or combine two words together to create a new word. It is typically done in order to describe something that has not been described before. This is a practice that was used by William Shakespeare.

For example, Shakespeare created the word 'barefaced'. This was done to describe the act of being caught in a lie. By doing this, the audience engages with an idea in a way that is new and unfamiliar, thus helping to add literariness to the play.

It is important to note that these are only a few examples of literary terms! Remember to always be on the lookout for devices such as rhyme, rhythm, simile, figurative language, onomatopoeia, and more!

Literariness - key takeaways

  • Literariness is a way of measuring the extent to which a text is literary.
  • Literature can be any piece of writing, but specifically prose, poetry, and drama.
  • There are three components of literariness: a distinct style, defamiliarization, and the transformation of a normal experience.
  • The three components are needed together to create literariness.
  • Literary terms can be used to create both a distinct style and defamiliarization.

Literariness

The first component is the style of the text. This will be a style that is almost entirely unique to literature. It will include the use of literary terms (or devices) in the text such as metaphor, alliteration, simile or onomatopoeia. The second component builds on this and states that these literary devices will defamiliarise concepts in the text. This is to say that the style of the text will cause familiar objects or concepts to be presented in a way that is unfamiliar to the reader. The final component of the literariness is that the reader will engage in emotion in a new or different way. This component will be caused by the previous two components combined!

The literary term refers to the techniques or devices that are used in a piece of writing that creates literariness. This can include literary devices like figurative speech: metaphors, similes or personification. It can also include devices to do with sounds such as alliteration, rhyme and rhythm. Literary terms make up the first component of literariness in texts. This is because they are used to create defamiliarisation which in turn is used to make the reader engage in a new way.

The literary theory behind literariness is that it is a way to quantify literature. It is a theory that was created in 1921 by Russian formalist thinkers, who wanted a way to quantify the formal aspects of literature in order to determine its merits. The literary theory originally looked at the effects of metre and rhyme on a text, However, over the course of the twentieth century, this was expanded. The literary theory can be used as a way to separate non-literary texts from literary texts.

Final Literariness Quiz

Question

What is the definition of literariness?

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Answer

 Literariness is a formal style of writing used to differentiate between texts.

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When was literariness created?

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1802

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Who created the term literariness?

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It was created by the Russian formalist critic, Roman Jakobson.

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What is the aim of literariness?

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It aims to differentiate between literary and non-literary texts. By doing so, it aims to find a way to quantify literature.

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What is the aim of literariness?

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It aims to differentiate between literary and non-literary texts. By doing so, it aims to find a way to quantify literature.

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 Who is not a literary critic of literariness? 

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Answer

David Miall

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Question

True or False - measuring a text by literariness is a common practice.


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True! Measuring a text by literariness, or using literariness to determine a text's merit, it is commonly used practice now

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Question

Who wrote about the three components of literariness? 

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Answer

Literary critic David Miall wrote about the components of literariness. He said that any piece of work that was literary would possess three key components. These were a distinct style, defamiliarisation, and new experience.

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How many components are there? 


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2

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What are the three components of literariness?

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These three components are, the presence of a distinctive writing style (almost unique to literature), defamiliarisation, and the reader engaging in a feeling in a new or unfamiliar way.

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How does the first component create literariness? 

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The first component (the presence of a distinctive style) is able to create literariness as it involves using literary terms as a way to create defamiliarisation in the text.

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What does the literary term mean?

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A literary term is a term given to the different techniques that a writer can use within a text. These can include figurative language or sound and rhythm.

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True or False -  literary terms are the same as literary devices

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True! These words are synonyms of each other

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Is a metaphor a literary term?

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Yes! A metaphor is a literary term because it is a technique that can be used to cause an effect in a text. It is a type of figurative language and can help create defamiliarisation.

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What is defamiliarisation? 

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This is a concept where a writer will take a familiar concept, and write about it in a way that is unfamiliar to the reader.

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How can defamiliarisation be used to create literariness? 

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It can be used in order to achieve the third component (where the reader experiences something in a new or unfamiliar way). It makes the reader experience a concept, object or idea in a new way, and sot the third component is achieved.

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Can defamiliarisation be created without a distinct style?

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 No! The first component is necessary in order to create defamiliarisation in a text.

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What is the third component of literariness?

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The third component of literariness is that the reader will experience a feeling in a new way. This will be achieved due to the previous two components.

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How does the third component determine literariness?

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This determines literariness because as outlined by Miall, this is an experience that is almost solely unique to literature.

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What is literary theory?

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Literary theory is the term used to describe the academic thoughts behind how literature is created.

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True or False - Literariness is a type of literary theory.

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True! Literariness is a form of literary theory that can be categorised as a formalist theory of literature.

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