DIE WELT DER SLAVEN

Anarchism and art
The political roots of Šklovskij’s concept of estrangement

Erik Martin, Annette Werberger

Die Welt der Slaven 66 (2021) 1, 130–140

The aim of this article is to outline some connections between Šklovskij’s theory of estrangement (ostranenie) and certain anarchist ideas of the 19th century. At first glance this purpose might seem rather far-fetched. However, we will argue that the excessive use of quotations from Tolstoj that Šklovskij makes in his seminal work on estrangement – namely Art as Device (Iskusstvo kak priem, 1917) – is more than a mere coincidence. Via Tolstoj, Šklovskij could have received important anarchist ideas on the non-representational (or non-mimetic) character of art, which to a certain degree might have prefigured some corresponding concepts of the avant-garde movements.

In order to illustrate this outlined connection, we will proceed in two steps. Firstly, we will recapitulate some well-known ideas on certain anarchist traits of the avant-garde, especially regarding the way aesthetic and political questions seem to merge in its anarchist praxis. Secondly, we will trace back the connection between estrangement and anti-representation in the ethics and aesthetics of anarchism in the 19th century, especially via Šklovskij’s reading of Tolstoj.

Keywords: Šklovskij; formalism; avant-garde; anarchy; Tolstoj

Martin, Erik, Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder); emartin@europa-uni.de

Werberger, Annette, Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder); werberger@europa-uni.de

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