All terms

What is defamiliarization?

The act of making the familiar seem strange, in order to encourage readers to see something in a new way.

Seeing the Familiar with Fresh Eyes

Defamiliarization is a technique used in creative writing to make the familiar seem strange, in order to encourage readers to see something in a new way.

This technique can be achieved through a variety of methods, such as using unconventional grammar or syntax, changing the point of view, or describing common objects or situations in unusual terms. By defamiliarizing something that is normally mundane or clichéd, writers can bring new life to their descriptions and inspire readers to look at the world around them in a fresh and exciting way.

In order to effectively defamiliarize something, writers must first have a clear understanding of the familiar. By knowing what is ordinary and expected, they can consciously choose to deviate from those norms and create something that is both unique and memorable. Whether it's a simple turn of phrase or an entire story told from a new perspective, defamiliarization can bring a new level of depth and meaning to the written word.

Defamiliarization in Action
Examples of the technique of defamiliarization in literature.
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Kafka's surreal novella uses defamiliarization throughout, from the protagonist's sudden transformation into a giant insect to the way his family and coworkers react to his bizarre condition.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

Eliot's modernist poem defamiliarizes the familiar landscape of modern city life, using imagery and allusions in unexpected ways to create a sense of alienation and disconnection in the reader.