German for alienation. Used in literature to denote a method of keeping a distance between viewer-reality and literary-reality. This method was used often by Bertolt Brecht in his epic theater.

According to Brecht, Verfremdung is simply taking what is known, natural and clear about an event or character and to create astonishment and curiosity for it.

This goes from changes in scenery or games with linear time to changing punctuation. An extremely simple example is:

"Man denkt; Gott lenkt" >> "Man denkt: Gott lenkt"
(Man thinks; God controls >> Man thinks: (that) God controls)

In changing the semicolon to a colon, the meaning goes from a statement of man's subordination to God to a question of God's existence.

In the end, the technique is always used to push the viewers back a step or to trip them up so that they must think. Everything is an attempt to bring the viewer to new conclusions and thoughts on the world.

Probably the best example of this is the end of "Der gute Mensch von Sezuan":

So endet das Stück...
Den Vorhang zu and all Fragen offen. ...
Verehrtes Publikum, los, such dir selbst den Schluss!
Es muss ein guter da sein, muss, muss, muss.


So ends the play...
The curtain closed and all questions open. ...
Honored guests, go, find yourselves the answer!
There must be a good one, must, must, must.

Note: all translations my own