Defamiliarization: A Personal History
In 1977, I wrote a college thesis about Michelangelo Antonioni. Fueled by illusions of scholarship, I attempted to evaluate this great Italian filmmaker through the lens of Russian formalist literary criticism. Out of nowhere, I single-handedly discovered that Antonioni's films were about strategies of defamiliarization.
Of course, his films were also movies with complicated characters, a distinctive milieu, and emotional resonance. These aspects of his filmmaking, however, were not the focus of my analysis: defamiliarization
was a more overtly academic approach, and applying an obscure Russian literary theory to movies was enough to get me an A-...