In Shklovsky’s essay, “Art as Technique,” he introduces the concept of defamiliarization when pinpointing what makes art “art.” For Shklovsky, art is created when the subject matter of that particular piece of art is presented to the audience in a way in which they had not considered the subject before. This process takes the habitualized and mundane and transforms it through a new perspective or consideration of the subject matter. Shklovsky offers many processes through poetic language defamiliarizes the reader with the subject matter of the poem through breaking the habitualized behaviors of prose language. Prose, according to “Art as Technique,” is vague and relies on assumptions to convey meaning, is delivered quickly and effortlessly with unhindered language, and has an inherent rhythm. Poetic language, or artistic language, as used in poems like William Butler Yeats’s “A Coat,” has the opposite effect.
Foremost, poetic language is not used to describe an idea, but rather to create an image of the idea through which the reader can view the subject matter of the piece of art differently. Shklovsky notes that poetic language’s “purpose is not to make us perceive meaning, but to create a special perception of the object” (781). In Yeats’s poem, “A Coat,” the very first line of the poem accomplishes this special perception of the object he is writing about, or in this case, a piece of art – a song. Yeats writes “I made my song a coat.” For this line, song is either personified and is being made a coat to wear, or is being made into a coat. Either way, we have something artistic, or conceptual, with no physically tangible state (except that on paper) being mixed with something practical, tangible, and functional. A song serves an ascetic purpose of pleasure while a coat serves the everyday purpose of warmth and protection from the elements outside. The juxtaposition of realm – the realm of art and the realm of the practical – are being combined in a way unfamiliar to the reader, which serves to defamiliarize both familiar objects within the poem by reconsidering how the two might work together as purposed by the author.