Estrangement Effect [Verfremdungseffekt] (3228 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

  • Gerhard P. Knapp (University of Utah)


Verfremdungseffekt (German Verfremdung = making strange something that is known or familiar) is commonly, if not very accurately, translated as “alienation effect”. Perhaps more appropriate, although less frequently encountered, are the translations “distancing” or “estrangement effect”. Verfremdungseffekt applies to the function of any theatrical device or technique designed to dispel the audience's notion that “reality” is directly represented or enacted on stage. Verfremdung creates an “estranged”, i.e. detached, and potentially rational, reception of a play, and thus counteracts the spectators' e…

Knapp, Gerhard P.. "Estrangement Effect [Verfremdungseffekt]". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 18 December 2006
[, accessed 29 April 2017.]

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