Under different names, alienation has been around for a long time. However, Immanuel Kant's Copernican revolution marks a new and deeper degree of alienation. Kant's definition of the subject—denied contact with the world as such and forced constantly to synthesize the immediacy of intuitions with the lawfulness of concepts—is a hopelessly riven “I-think.” Reading Kant was a traumatic event for contemporaries, especially for philosophers, who attempted to make the world whole again by formulating new versions of absolute unity. It was Wilhelm von Humboldt who theorized a way both to accept the gap in Kantian epistemology and, at least partially—through language understood as inner speech—to overcome the gap. Reacting to later appropriations of von Humboldt, Russian linguists and such literary theorists as Victor Shklovsky, Roman Jakobson, Sergej Karcevskij, and Mikhail Bakhtin explored the complexity of alienation in language and offered proposals for negotiating it in different versions of literariness.

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