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AComparativeStudyofChineseDreamandAmericanDream—aCaseStudyoftheGreatGatsbyandAmericanDreamsinChina

2018-10-30严芊蕙

校园英语·下旬 2018年6期
关键词:河底首都师范大学簡介

严芊蕙

On the topic whether the literature should be close to and true to authentic daily life, critics hold different views. Some argues that the major source of literature work is ordinary life, while others believe that for aesthetic purposes, art should keep a distance from everyday use--to achieve the goal of pure aesthetic criticism, familiarity is to be avoided.

Verfremdung is a German word which means using familiar forms in an unfamiliar way. The term Verfremdungseffekt is rooted in the Russian Formalist notion of the device of making strange, which literary critic Viktor Shklovsky claims is the essence of all art. In “Things Made Strange: On the Concept of ‘Estrangement in Science Fiction Theory”, Simon Spiegel concluded the process of how the conception of Verfremdungseffekt turned into 3 different terms in English literature theory. It was said that Shklovskys Russian friend Sergei Tretyakov taught the German playwright Bertolt Brecht Shklovskys term during Brechts visit to Moscow in the spring of 1935 and Brecht used it in an essay on how Chinese opera actors played in a way that the audience was hindered from (Spiegel 369). For this reason, many scholars used “estrangement” to translate both terms: “the estrangement device” in Shklovsky, “the estrangement effect” in Brecht. However, verfremdungseffekt in Shklovskys work was translated into “defamiliarization” by Lemon and Reis. While it in Brechts work was translated into “alienation effect” by John Willet. The canonization of these translations obscured the close connections between the 3 terms “defamiliarization”, “alienation” and “estrangement”.

These three terms are mainly used as stylistic devices describing using familiar forms in an unfamiliar way to break the illusion of realism. While “defamiliarization” includes unusual verbal imagery, while “alienation” is more concerned with concrete operations, such as a distanced kind of acting or placing banners above the stage. “Estrangement”, on the other hand, is more often used in science fiction literature, combined with “cognitive” as “cognitive estrangement” to refer to the purposeful or determined separation of a person from the rest of human society.

In the following sections, this paper will give detailed introductions of these three terms and their applications in literature study.

1. Defamiliarization

Defamiliarization is the mostly widely used term among the three, generally referring to the artistic technique of presenting to audiences common things in an unfamiliar or strange way in order to enhance perception of the familiar. With defamiliarization of that which is or has become familiar or taken for granted, hence automatically perceived, come both the slowing down and the increased difficulty of the process of reading and comprehending and an awareness of the artistic procedures causing them (Margolin 2005).

This central concept in 20th-century art and theory ranges over movements including Dada, postmodernism, epic theatre, and science fictions, it is also used as a tactic by movements such as culture jamming.

Defamiliarization, as an writing technique, can often be found used in many literary works. It appears in English Romantic poetry, particularly in the poetry of Wordsworth, and was defined in the following way by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Their theory is to carry on the feelings of childhood into the powers of manhood; to combine the childs sense of wonder and novelty with the appearances which every day for perhaps forty years had rendered familiar.

As to more recent examples, Chinese avant-garde writers, Yu Hua in particular, used style as deviation as an effective postmodernist language medium to achieve a new defamiliarizing blasphemy against the established norm and to combat the accepted notion of secular reality by attempting to confine them to the sheer verbal surface of a text. (Cai 2011)

2. Alienation Effect

The alienation effect, previously known as the estrangement or distancing effect due to translation differences, is a performing arts concept coined by playwright Bertolt Brecht.

The alienation effect is achieved by the way the “artist never acts as if there were a fourth wall besides the three surrounding him. The audience can no longer have the illusion of being the unseen spectator at an event which is really taking place” (Willett 91). The use of direct audience-address is one way of disrupting stage illusion and generating the alienation effect. In performance, as the performer “observes himself”, his objective is “to appear strange and even surprising to the audience. He achieves this by looking strangely at himself and his work” (Willett 92).

Actors, directors, and playwrights may draw on alienating effects in creating a production. The playwright may describe them in the scripts stage directions, in effect requiring them in the staging of the work. A director may take a script that has not been written to alienate and introduce certain techniques, such as playing dialogue forward to remind the audience that there is no fourth wall, or guiding the cast to act in quotation marks. By disclosing and making obvious the manipulative contrivances and “fictive” qualities of the medium, the actors alienate the viewer from any passive acceptance and enjoyment of the play as mere “entertainment”. Instead, the viewer is forced into a critical, analytical frame of mind that serves to disabuse him or her of the notion that what he is watching is necessarily an inviolable, self-contained narrative.

3. Cognitive Estrangement

Cognitive Estrangement is a concept derived by Darko Suvin from Russian Formalisms notion of ostranenie and Bertolt Brechts closely related notion of the estrangement-effect, a structuralist attempt to distinguish the genre of science fiction writing from other forms of fiction.

Suvin refers cognitive estrangement explicitly to Shklovsky and Brecht, but without distinguishing properly between these two theoretical traditions. Instead, he introduces the term estrangement in a completely new realm when using it to designate a genre: in science fiction the attitude of estrangement has grown into the formal framework of the genre.

This central point of Suvins poetics is full of contradictions, and it is worth analyzing it in detail to disentangle the different aspects of Suvins concept. For all their differing attitudes regarding the question of what task estrangement should serve, for both Shklovsky and Brecht estrangement has been primarily a stylistic device that can be located at specific points inside “realistic” texts. Suvin, however, suddenly calls it the formal framework of estranged genres, which are comprised of sf, the fairy tale, and myth, and which he opposes to naturalistic ones.

For Suvin, the key to cognitive estrangement is the presence in a story or novel of what he calls a “novum” that is a device or machine that is absolutely new and whose presence compels us to imagine a different way of conceiving our world.

Works of Science Fiction all begin with the idea of framing a hypothesis. The most common of these hypotheses is likely time travel, although there are many thousands of distinct alternate realities used in books and movies that do not utilize time travel as a hypothesis. Suvin believes that the most popular main stream science fiction works, like Star Wars, are not truly science fiction at heart—they simply utilize the genre as a way to take advantage of the special effects and uniqueness that go along with the genre.

4. The Charm of Unfamiliarity

As the proverb says, things look better from further away. Keeping a distance helps generate the appreciation from the audience. Using familiar forms in an unfamiliar way can help break the illusion of realism. The three theories mentioned above can be used as effective stylistic devices.

While denying the link between literature and life can be restored by aesthetic perceptual fullness. As the opponents may argue, it is dangerous to hold the literature too far from its audience. Creating too many barriers for the interpretation of authors intention would cause the misreading of the work. But to encourage new ways of thinking about human society, we need to keep a proper distance from daily chores.

Daguguji is a famous micro-blogger with more than 2.6 million followers. In his post or poem titled “July”, he wrote this line: There have been times we lie down underneath the river, witnessing the passing-by of days from a different angle(有一段时间我们仰卧河底,在另一个角度看时光流淌。). A common interpretation of this line is that only when we put ourselves outside the familiar world we live in, we can have a fresh view of what our life was like in the past and think about the real meaning of life. This special angle of “witnessing” “underneath the river” may imply the defamiliarization of common life. After analyzing his other posts, I also find clear evidence of his application of defamiliarization device. By using familiar dialectal words and names of small towns and cities in fresh context, he created the effects of novelty and sometimes exceptionable irony or even a sense of mystique. His followers who commented under his micro-blogs tended to imitate his usage of words. And this group of peoples post style is very identical and full of interesting creativeness.

This distancing philosophy can also be applied to many aspects of language and arts. By defamiliarising language, translation can arrest thinking about a text in a way that assumes the language is understood. Brenners “Gestures of Defamiliarization” introduces the photography project whose images address defamiliarization in two ways: firstly, they reframe stereotypical representations of Africa and Africans by portraying dynamic, complex and layered social identities and urban landscapes; secondly, they demonstrate how these very same complex identities and landscapes inevitably become familiar and mundane – and are therefore often overlooked as sites for potential critical inquiry.

In exploring these theories, the common becomes unique, the disregarded becomes relevant, and the familiar again becomes defamiliarized.

References:

[1]Brenner,J.,Horsler,A.,Moiloa,M.,Munsie,P.,Vorster,S.&Zeelie;,T.(2010).Gestures of Defamiliarization.Visual Communication,9(1),51-65.

[2]Cai,Y.(2011).The Aesthetics of Linguistic Divergence: Defamiliarization in Contemporary Chinese Avant-Garde Fiction.Critique,52(3),332-347.

[3]Daguguguji.(2016).Microblog.Messages posted to:http://weibo.com/u/2146965345.

【作者簡介】王美风,首都师范大学。

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