Defamiliarization as Revelation

by Daniel Hartley

This is a very brief post simply to share what felt like an epiphany. I’ve just watched a lecture given by Terry Eagleton at Berkeley, after which he answers questions ( One of the questions put to him mentions that during the talk he argued that every aesthetic concept is a theological concept in disguise. The questioner goes on to ask him how this applies to the Russian formalist concept of defamiliarization, since, as the lady says, it is not immediately apparent how this is a theological concept in disguise.

To paraphrase roughly, Eagleton responds that defamiliarization is effectively revelation or epiphany for a secular world, a world without grace. It is the notion that, like Gerard Manley Hopkins, we must do violence to language to get anything out of it.

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