Turning into Sterne
Viktor Shklovskii and Literary Reception
Studies In Comparative Literature 18
Legenda: Oxford, 2010
Viktor Shklovskii (1893-1984) is best known as an inventor of Russian Formalism, the literary theorist responsible for ostranenie, defamiliarisation. Just after the 1917 Revolution, Shklovskii claimed Tristram Shandy to be ‘the most typical novel in world literature’; he then proceeded to theorise Sterne’s formal experiments with plot; to chronicle his own wartime exploits in an autobiographical ‘Sentimental Journey’; and to promote Tristram Shandy as a prototype for the new Soviet novel. His reading of Tristram Shandy and his lifelong relationship with its author, Laurence Sterne (1713-1769), were of enormous importance to Shklovskii, whose theory of prose remains current in Western academia. As Finer shows, they can tell us much not only about Shklovskii but also the extended, tangled ways of literary reception, and translation.
Emily Finer teaches Russian literature at the University of St Andrews.