CHAPTER V

THE FORMALIST SCHOOL OF POETRY AND
MARXISM

THE FORMALIST OPPOSITION TO MARXISM.--THE REDUCTION OF POETRY
TO ETYMOLOGY AND SYNTAX.--ART FOR ART'S SAKE AND THE
MATERIALIST DIALECTICS.--THE ARGUMENTATIONS OF SHKLOVSKY
AND OTHERS.--AN ANALOGY WITH THE THEOLOGIC ARGUMENT
AGAINST DARWINISM.

LEAVING out of account the weak echoes of pre-revolutionary ideologic systems, the only theory which has opposed Marxism in Soviet Russia these years is the Formalist theory of Art. The paradox consists in the fact that Russian Formalism connected itself closely with Russian Futurism, and that while the latter was capitulating politically before Communism, Formalism opposed Marxism with all its might theoretically.

Victor Shklovsky is the theorist of Futurism, and at the same time the head of the Formalist school. According to his theory, art has always been the work of self-sufficient pure forms, and it has been recognized by Futurism for the first time. Futurism is thus the first conscious art in history, and the Formalist school is the first scientific school of art. Owing to the efforts of Shklovsky--and this is not an insignificant virtue!--the theory of art, and partly art itself, have at last been raised from a state of alchemy to the position of chemistry. The herald of the Formalist school, the first chemist of art, gives a few friendly slaps

-162-

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