Notes & Thoughts

To make a stone feel stony

Victor Shklovsky’s Theory of Prose is a revered bible for MFA creative writing types.

Most famous lines:

Held accountable for nothing, life fades into nothingness. Automatization eats away at things, at clothes, at furniture, at our wives, and at our fear of war. […] And so, in order to return sensation to our limbs, in order to make us feel objects, to make a stone feel stony, man has been given the tool of art.

In other words, art wakes us up from rote unconscious living and teaches us how to see the world again.

It does this, Shklovsky says, by acting as a sort of technical “device” that a) presents us with a bunch of familiar conventions and tropes to lull us and then b) throws in a weird novelty or curveball to shock us back to our senses. (That’s obviously massively reductive of his actual thought, but you get the idea.)