New Historicism

A New Approach on Literature
By Nugraha Dian Putra

The Essay . This flexibility is accordingly determined by the problems that occurred and resolved with the provision of theories. and procedures of New Historicism within the context of its method so as to fulfill a fair basic assumption on the criticism and its relevance. I will profoundly configure those fragmentary presumptions on concepts which can be used as the basic themes on New Historicism reading procedures. its concepts. Universitas Andalas. or simply as a “reflection” that refer to material condition (as in early Marxism) of particular epoch of literature. as he often refers this term to be a set of practices of ‘cultural poetics’.Nugraha Dian Putra English Department 26th February 2009 Abstrak Tulisan ini menunjukkan keterkaitan antara Pengetahuan. In this essay. thus. The first appearance of New Historicism. It is also new and differ markedly from its former (old) historicism to view literature as a stable events which can be used as “background” of an era. as it is inferred within the basic concept of New Historicism that there is no master discourse (theory). How relevant the concepts and procedures of New Historicism to the development of literary criticism in the department? What may New Historicism offer either to students or lecturers? What is implied within its use? In order to answer those critical questions. In essence. themes. Kuasa. dan Kepentingan yang terinspirasi oleh metode penelitian New Historicism serta gagasan pemikir Perancis Michel Foucault mengenai formasi wacana arkeologi pengetahuan dalam perkembangan kritik sastra khususnya di Sastra Inggris. themes and procedures were most presumed by the scholar 1 .New Historicism Reading 05185116 . Tulisan ini menelaah konsep dasar New Historicism dalam keterkaitannya membuka dimensi (wacana) baru terhadap khazanah kritik sastra. Introduction New Historicist Criticism took shape in the late 1970s and early 1980s as opposed to New Criticism and to the critical deconstruction. it is critical to put the basic concepts. the use of the method on literary works would be dependent and be flexible. What is new in New Historicism? New Historicism is first introduced by Stephen Greenblatt in 1980s. it views literary texts as “situated” and “negotiated” the oft-disregard fragmentary view lies beyond a work. as it suggested (within New Historicism) that no claim for exclusiveness on theories by means that every work develops its greatness on the background of the epoch that it evolved from. Instead.

adjust these approaches of formalism and history described in oft-quoted phrase by Louise Montrose. therefore. it bears the marks of repeated emendations additions. it is readers/critics who represent the author’s objectives within numerous method(s). theory serves like a pair of conceptual spectacles that you use to frame and focus on what you’re looking at. In advanced. as “a reciprocal concern with the historicity of texts and the textuality of 2 .of the English Renaissance in the late of 1970s and early of 1980s. embellishments. it viewpoints and practices have displaced deconstruction as the reigning mode of avant-garde critical theory and practice. the marginalized. becomes one of several theories and approach in literary theory within almost these three decades of the 20th century. Texts can be manipulated. theory comes from the Greek theoria. students and historicists of the English Romantic redeveloped parallel conceptions of the intertextuality of literature. Neither formalism nor New Criticism critics succeed to ensure the autonomous of the text itself as the method. to see history simply within its text is sometimes ambiguous and often conflicting textual representations. conventions and cultural values of an era. and the dispossessed. history and politics. New Historicism. Alternatively. It can serve as a tool for discerning. (Hitchcock xii) Even so. The nature of representation is the most important issue in our understanding of what is history. several researches precisely unpacked several approaches to uncover its problems. They suggested that the representations in literary texts are not simply as reflectors of reality but concretized the absence of history in order to uncover the literature and political contradictions. and making sense. that literary works is not only the production of history but it also produces the history. norms. deciphering. In this way. theory can provide a position from which to engage in a critique of the status quo. Old Historicism had failed to see that history as ‘background’ of literary overview. What is new within this ‘theory’? As Hitchcock posits in his Theory for Classics that: Like so many words in the English language. They stressed their attention to the literary form of drama. New historicism. In 1990s. the connection and its relevancy of interdisciplinary methods or theories provide readers and critics to see that such principal or one basic theory can be no longer appropriate on presenting interpretation. In fact. however. and. then. an author always present his /her (literary) work through several ways. provides needs on that fragmentary view instead of one ultimate interpretation which is an illusionary exploitation of the unitary work. which means “a viewing” or “spectacle” and offers a way of seeing. It demands conceptual basics of interdisciplinary approaches and theories. translations. This nature simply elaborated within these illustrations that. and alert within such texts the voices of the oppressed. New Historicism. that it stressed the embeddedness of literature in historical circumstances. This exploitation is considerably discriminations between literature and non-literary texts to be a construct of one ultimate ideology of discursive formations. deletions.

Moreover.history. author.” That is. etc. Theory and Practice: Michel Foucault Whenever one can describe. which are authorized in some sense and which have some unity of function at a fundamental level. or thematic choices. wherever it defined. and sometimes as a regulated practice that accounts for a number of statements’ (Foucault. which is language as it is used by various constituencies (the law. concepts. indeed. Foucault shows in his work how truth is something which is supported materially by a whole range of practices and institutions: universities. not-proper-person-yet. There are some external exclusions overcome the set of discourse procedures. or any discriminative judgments. religion. they are considered as insane (for instance). they are: commentary. publishing houses. etc) for purposes to do power relationships between people. otherwise. types of statement. (Foucault. correlations. that we are dealing with a discursive formation. The methodology of exploring the relation between discourse and reality of an era puts Foucault into account on leading New Historicists viewpoint. and any text is conceived as a discourse in which consists of what we called representations. as if it just the phantasm. In addition. Foucault asserts another four internal exclusions within the discourse procedures. This is related closely with the third external exclusion that those in position of authority who are seen as ‘expert’ are those who can ‘only’ speak the truth. Thus. and the rarefaction of speaking subject. The Terms. sometimes as an individualizable group of statements. the medicine. social and intellectual historian. Foucault asserts. Foucault defines a discourse as language practice. history is an interaction of texts to be interpreted. whenever. and the distinction between true and false. the distinction between mad and sane. transformations). they are: the taboo. 3 . considered as universal agreement that only the statements of those considered sane are attended to. between a number of statements. the speech of insane is treated as if it did not exist. [to apprehend] that there are some external and internal exclusions (Foucault’s terms) when discourses are being produced. As he posits in The Archaeology of Knowledge that ‘discourse’ refer to ‘the general domain of all statements. such a complex system of multiple constraints acts which bring discourse into existence. disciplines. between objects. death. for example. sexuality. (Mills 65) Let us merely put this pattern of discourses into a very example we often found daily. and renowned cultural critic. The taboo. we will say. The distinction between mad and sane. discourses should be seen as groups of statements which are associated with institutions. which supported Foucault ideas into our society and comprehension. one can define a regularity (an order. such a system of dispersion. the church. Archaeology 4142) Michel Foucault (1926–84) was a French philosopher. is a kind of prohibition (of statement) that make us difficult or restricted to say something more about it. positions and functionings. government departments. discourse brought us into accounts of its discursive regularities. for the sake of convenience. Archaeology 90).

(58) Commentary regards to literary terms is simply defined as writing about another’s statement. Author function is (used) as an organizing principle of the texts. these practices/boundaries exclude knowledge which might challenge them. for example structuralism and colonialism. This methodology is apparently applied in New Historicism spirit that the contexts of representations are inevitably entailed the appropriations of those discursive practices. In fact. beauty and risk. when we regard the author as the core of the works’ meaning then we need to be alert that his/her discourse is something to be interpreted. for instance. Foucault and New Historicism They have reduced liberty. along with its hierarchical department there will be unwritten rules which is explained that only those in higher positions of authority who can speak without restraint. beauty and risk may be reclaimed. medical. historical. it demonstrates that this kind of speech acts (commentary) bring discourse into existences by its formulation. which indicates a mode of analysis or methodology of discursive formations and statements. any discourses (e.g. This is Foucault’s way of becoming not an anti-humanist but a post-humanist. the limits which we place on subject areas into disciplinary boundary. it can always be related back to a bigger unit so as to configure what called archives. The rarefaction of speaking subject could be simply illustrated within practical institutions. and fit in with. As Sara Mills posits in his statement: ‘Thus. drawing from one partiality (discourse) to a bigger fragment (episteme). For example. Or else we work within the same subject but different perspectives. literary criticism can be considered to be commentary. we will generally approach them on a particular range of methods and theoretical tools (e. scientific. Therefore. even if we are asserting something which as far as we know it is ‘the truth’. Thus. Foucault’s shift 4 . He also employs the idea of the episteme to indicate a particular group of knowledge and discourses which operate as the dominant discourses for ideological purposes. Disciplines are the other exclusions which Foucault asserted.g. a discursive formation. not a writer on the left but a post-revolutionary writer. that is why discourses are sometimes called emergent. The episteme connects all the separate discourse (religious. if at all. etc) into more or less coherent structure of thought. Deconstruction and Orientalism). the government. we will approach them and delimit those subjects in different ways and tools (as if to focus). if we work within economy. something to be elaborated into other statements. The idea of commentary is that discourses (statements) will vanish as soon as they have been pronounced. which take place from period to period in any given historical epoch. that everything is reduced into categorical disciplines. our statements will only be judged to be ‘true’ if they accord with. Marxism). it comes out from one (author) ‘presents’ into others’ (critics) ‘represents’. in the techniques that people are able to apply to the shaping of their own existence. Liberty.scientific bodies and so on. the archeology. all of other statements which are authorized within our society.

without maintaining the concrete ethical and political interests that drove his work. (During 22) Without maintaining the concrete ethical and political interest that drove Foucault’s work. laws. The New Historicism theory and practice can be simply illustrated below: 5 . on which presented hand-inhand the pragmatic consequences on theoretical fragmentary viewpoints.has been absorbed into “new historicism” within academic literary studies. Some factors at a certain point of time influencing the creation of a text: New Historicists argue that all levels of society share in the circulation of power through the production and distribution of the most elementary cultural and social text. and sciences. nevertheless. As it mingled with and embraced every aspects of life. This is the appropriation of interdisciplinary framework of New Historicist criticism. made Foucault as one of the prominent critics of New Historicism. include literature.

The illustration below may fit the explanation: The Method A Work The Finding(s) A Theory B Work A Theory C Work We may put anything (theory and literary work). Everyone can say and explain about their own truth and understanding. French Structuralism.Thus. American New Criticism. and we may start our own master discourse or our own interest. and it will shows us clearly that the illustration will say the relevancies about our knowledge and truth. Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism 5. as if only for tactical convenience in conducting critical discussion. then. can be applied within this circumscribe? We have these theories in advanced: 1. Supposed that we start with several theories and one work in hand. Moral/philosophical Literary Criticism 2. the representation will be clearly enough to endorse the relativity of interpretation. because everything is interrelated and relative. Russian Formalism 4. New Historicists encompasses every single thing regarding to its discursive practices. Reader-response Literary Criticism 6 . Historical/biographical Literary Criticism 3. It suggests that it would be clearly defined when we see one work using one literary theory. The Method The Finding(s) A Theory A Theory B Theory A Work(s) B Theory C Theory C Theory What theory.

concepts. lecturer. poststructuralist transformed and expanded this viewpoint of “theory”. and theorists in order to be able to trace the way that we accept as ‘true’. Marxist Literary Criticism 8. Deconstructive Literary Criticism 7.6. as it posits: “when common experience in the use or interpretation of language does not accord with what the theory entails. 7 . or else is accounted an ideologically imposed concealment of the actual operation of the signifying system.” Thus. how discourse enables us to think ‘differently’ and analyze the potential answer for the arbitrariness.” and in many instances to “undermine” and “subvert” what they identify as the foundational assumptions. such experience is rejected as unjustified and illusory. poststructuralists expressly “challenge” and undertake to “destabilize. Postcolonial Literary Criticism However.’ (22) Nietzsche puts ‘cynicism’ implied in his lecture “Homer and Classical Philology” in relation to theoretism that: “we may consider antiquity from a scientific point of view. (Abrams 239) The Method A Work The Finding(s) New Historicism B Work Anything C Work The Theory(-ies) Conclusion Foucault’s work on discourse and the provision of New Historicist Literary Criticism is exceedingly useful for students. procedures and findings in traditional modes of discourse. but perhaps’ he puts forward that ‘its real challenge lies in the question: “can it continue to be used to break down the limits of academic professionalism?” and that requires real changes in our methods and topics of study. Feminist Literary Criticism 9. As Simon During suggests to endorse literature ‘obviously’ (especially) for ‘those who take Foucault’s contribution as seriously as it deserves’ that those scholars ‘will feel the demand to elaborate and move past it.

Barry. Louise A. <http://www. Melanie. Sheridan Smith London and New York: Routledge. Foucault. Purdue U. Theory for Classics. The Archeology of Knowledge. Mills. 2005. Michel Foucault: Revised Edition. 8 . or to arrange and compare the linguistic forms of ancient masterpieces. of the atmosphere of antiquity. Sejarah. 30.we may try to look at what has happened with the eye of a historian. Michel. Foucault and Literature: Towards a Genealogy of Writing. we forget that passionate emotion which instinctively drove our meditation and enjoyment back to the Greeks. 2008. Sara. M. 2008].. M. Hitchcock. “Budaya. dan Pasar: New Historicism Dalam Perkembangan Kritik Sastra. London: Routledge. but we always lose the wonderful creative force. Smart. Simon. 2002. Dino. (Hitchcock 26) Bibliography Abrams. A. Michel Foucault. 2003].>. USA: Heinle & Heinle. A Glossary of Literary Terms: 7th Ed. 1999. the real fragrance. H. 28. New York: Routledge. New York: Routledge. [Oct.[Nov.” University of Indonesia. 2002.purdue. "Terms Used by New Historicism. During. to bring them at all events under a morphological law. Trans. 2005. London: Routledge." Introductory Guide to Critical Theory. Felluga.

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