Thoughts on the Alienation Effect

Hi everyone! I know it’s been an absolute age since I last posted, and this one is going to be a quickie, but I have some good news to say that I will hold on to now for later (and not too much later).

I had a little confidence wobble as well recently regarding the PhD, but I guess the fear is understandable – it is a massive title and not a thing to be sneezed at (although it might ruin the paper of the thesis only a little). I’m not new to wobbles, let’s say – my nerves are like a massively woven tightrope so I’m used to it! I had one of those late nighters where I thought to myself – right, just calm down and get to it, and have hopefully got back on track. I should think back to my driving lessons, as I used to panic on hill starts so much that I actually went off course just to avoid waiting at a traffic light on a slope. Yes, I was that much of a pussy (or skitty kitty, whichever you prefer). Ahem. I was perfectly capable of doing it, but the panic just knocks everything over like a Jenga tower on the most simple of tasks.

Anyway, I was reading up on the Alienation technique, most commonly used by our old playwright friend Brecht, and a passage in a book I’m reading reminded me of something I asked my Dad a while ago. I asked him now that his children have flown the nest, if it feels weird to see us out of context i.e. in a shop or on the bus (the latter of which is likely as I spend most of my life there nowadays). It reminds me of this particular passage:

“The alienation effect, to be sure, is the most eminent task of art, but art has no patent on it; it can be observed step by step in social reality as a “procedure of daily life”: “For a man to see his mother as the wife of a man,” so we read in a note to the “New Technique of Acting,” “an A-Effect is necessary; it occurs, for example, if he acquires a stepfather. If a person sees his teacher oppressed by a bailiff, an A-Effect arises; the teacher is torn out of a context in which he appears big, and transferred into a context in which he appears small.” (Holthusen 109)

It’s quite interesting because we generally think of Art being the main source of feeling this way – which I’m trying to link across to cognitive estrangement in Science Fiction. The teacher and the bailiff scenario is a pretty odd choice as well – reminds me of that Simpsons episode when Bart and Skinner are temporarily friends. I wonder how many readers of this blog I’ve actually encountered (obviously I know a few who do), and seen me swear at a tree or something or singing to myself, thinking “what a weirdo”, then return and read this blog. Haha! That’s quite scary.