Looking for examples of "Ostranenie" -or- Defamiliarizaion
March 20, 2016 10:46 AM   Subscribe

Can you share any examples of descriptions (written or visual) of art, literature, or movies that help illuminate the work by offering a perspective that is unique, but still accurate?

The dictionary.com definition of DEFAMILIARIZATION is:

noun 1. Art, Literature. a theory and technique, originating in the early 20th century, in which an artistic or literary work presents familiar objects or situations in an unfamiliar way, prolonging the perceptive process and allowing for a fresh perspective. Origin of defamiliarization: de- + familiarize + -ation; loan translation of Russian ostranenie

Some examples I already have include:

Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again. THE WIZARD OF OZ (Inquirer TV Writer Lee Winfrey)

Eccentric businessman invites five children to his manufacturing plant, where each of them suffers an horrific accident in a macabre game to find the next CEO. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Girl kidnapped by a man driven insane by his grotesque disfigurement grows to love her captor in a case study of Stockholm Syndrome. Beauty and the Beast
posted by pjsky to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
That's not my understanding of ostranenie, which I'm sure someone else can provide a better explanation of, but this video regarding The Karate Kid seems to fit with your examples.
posted by FencingGal at 11:03 AM on March 20, 2016

When I studied film as an undergraduate, I was introduced to defamiliarization as a cinematic technique in terms of the Russian film theorist Viktor Shklovsky, with films like Ballet Mechanique as exemplars.

I never put those "subversive summary of film" blurbs in the same category, but when you frame it that way, I can see the case you're making. I was able to find a few more by googling the text of each quote, to find pages that included lists of these summaries.
posted by Alterscape at 11:20 AM on March 20, 2016

Are you looking for (1) better examples or definitions of defamiliarization/ostranenie, or (2) more goofy describe-the-movie jokes? These are not at all the same question.
posted by RogerB at 11:31 AM on March 20, 2016

Response by poster: RogerB -- looking for better examples of defamiliarization/ostranenie. Happy to have goofy describe-the-movie jokes too because they're fun. But my interest is in collecting mainstream/accessible examples of defamiliarization.

FencingGal and Alterscape, thank you for the links! I will check those out immediately!
posted by pjsky at 11:41 AM on March 20, 2016

I, too, am a bit confused by your examples.

The concept of ostranenie was developed by Shklovski, in Art as a Technique (PDF link). The essay also contains and discusses a few examples (notably one from Tristram Shandy).

The main thrust is to make the habitual strange, thereby helping us truly see it again (since we become desensitized to that which we encounter on a daily basis).

Brecht's Verfremdungseffekt (distancing effect), a concept he used in connection to the performing arts, is related to this. You can find quite a few examples by googling 'x' + Verfremdung. Ex: The Brechtian alienation effect in Lars von Trier. I googled 'allegory' + 'Verfremdung' (pretty obvious) for some interesting articles.
posted by miorita at 11:43 AM on March 20, 2016

There's the infamous trailer of The Shining re-cut as a romcom.
posted by Brittanie at 12:59 PM on March 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

For the jokes: Better Than It Sounds (TVTropes)
posted by Jelly at 1:36 PM on March 20, 2016

Best answer: There are a number of examples in this excellent essay by Alexandra Berlina (editor and translator of the forthcoming Viktor Shklovsky: A Reader).
posted by languagehat at 1:41 PM on March 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: These are wonderful resources! Thank you guys. I am thrilled. Especially love this quote from the Alexandra Berlina essay -- the reconnection through wonder that is ostranenie. That's what I am searching for!
posted by pjsky at 2:07 PM on March 20, 2016

Martian poetry
posted by Rhaomi at 3:50 PM on March 20, 2016

This is what J. R. R. Tolkien called "mooreeffoc" (or "Chestertonian Fantasy"). He was borrowing the word from an argument of G. K. Chesterton's, and thought it was important to fantasy literature but not enough by itself.
It is Coffee-room, viewed from the inside through a glass door, as it was seen by Dickens on a dark London day; and it was used by Chesterton to denote the queerness of things that have become trite, when they are seen suddenly from a new angle.
The word Mooreeffoc may cause you suddenly to realize that England is an utterly alien land, lost either in some remote past age glimpsed by history, or in some strange dim future to be reached only by a time-machine; to see the amazing oddity and interest of its inhabitants and their customs and feeding-habits; but it cannot do more than that: act as a time-telescope focused on one spot.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:07 AM on March 21, 2016

Well I think one of the classic modern examples has to be Maus, the "simple little comic book" that makes the numbing horror of the Holocaust seem new and horrifying again because the true story of a Jewish family in WWII Poland has been drawn with various animal characters instead of humans.
posted by seasparrow at 6:37 AM on March 21, 2016

One of the best examples of Ostranenie I've seen is Craig Raine's A Martian Sends A Postcard Home.

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings--

they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.

.. Caxtons being books, of course. The wings are pages; markings are letters; melting eyes equals crying; the painless shrieking is laughter etc.
posted by kariebookish at 6:37 AM on March 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think some of the Idea Channel videos do this.
posted by Shanda at 12:51 PM on March 21, 2016

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