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According to author and critic Kristi Siegel, New Criticism’s formalist, exclusionary approach to analyzing literature spawned the reactionary theory of New Historicism, which offered a theoretical approach skeptical of the inherent subjectivity of historical narratives. New Historicism emerged in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, differentiating itself from traditional biographical historicism, in which “literature was seen as a (mimetic) reflection of the historical world in which it was produced. Further, history was viewed as stable, linear, and recoverable—a narrative of fact.” Additional evidence of New Historicism’s differentiation from other critical theories is the integration and consideration of “cultural, social, political, and anthropological discourses at work in any given age.” This inclusive approach to other disciplines also closely links and intertwines New Historicism with Cultural Materialism and Cultural Studies.
New Historicism is a "Reciprocal concern with the historicity of texts and the textuality of History (qtd. in abrams 191).
Stephen Greenblatt, Michel Foucault, Alan Liu, Catherine Gallagher, Louis A. Montrose, and Clifford Geertz
ahem. I actually prefer the term "Poetics of culture"
New Historicism comes from my cultural anthropological idea of "thick description" which attempts to describe "culture in action" (qtd. in veeser xi).
Foucault, Michael. The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1, An Introduction (1990) Gallagher, Catherine. “Marxism and the New Historicism” (1989) Gallagher, Catherine, and Stephen Greenblatt. Practicing New Historicism (2000) Greenblatt, Stephen. “Invisible Bullets.” Shakespearean Negotiations (1988) ---. “Towards a Poetics of Culture” (1989) Lui, Alan. “The Power of Formalism: The New Historicism” (1989) Montrose, Louis A. “Professing the Renaissance: The Poetics and Politics of Culture” (1989) Veeser, Harold Aram. The New Historicism (1989)
Thick description – Developed by Clifford Geertz in The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (1983), it’s “the close analysis, or ‘reading,’ of a particular social production or event so as to recover the meanings it has for the people involved in it, as well as to discover, within the overall cultural system, the network of conventions, codes, and modes of thinking with which the particular item is implicated, and which invest the item with those meanings” (qtd. in Abrams 191).
some stable background that the literary text reflects or refers to. concomitantly. it is not a context” (Rivkin and Ryan 506). “Any text [."defined by Michel Foucault as language practice: that is.” Representations . History is not some unmediated reality out there. subversion and containment were almost the catch phrases of New Historicism” (Rivkin and Ryan 506). Yet.] is conceived as a discourse which. in the nature of power. “At a certain point. language as it is used by various constituencies (the law. “Because traditional historicism assumes that works are explained by their immediate historical contexts. “new historicism’s claim that historical analysis is unavoidably subjective is not an attempt to legitimize a self-indulgent. “Understanding ‘history’ as discursively produced allows one to consider the source of a given discourse. to use a term important to Foucault. truthful or untruthful. “To see the discourses circulating in a particular era. and external realty. radical shifts in the varieties and deployments of knowledge for ideological purposes. for example) for purposes to do with power relationships between people. although it may seem to present. the New Historian focuses on issues of power—with a particular interest in the ways in which power is maintained by unofficial means” (Rivkin and Ryan 506). or reflect." Episteme . Power serves in making the world both knowable and controllable.[from Julian Wolfreys’s Introducing Literary Theories: A Guide and Glossary] . one needs to see not only their literary manifestation but also their presence in other kinds of cultural representations” (Rivkin and Ryan 506). Self-positioning – As stated by Lois Tyson in Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide (1999). which take place from period to period. .Neither historical nor literary texts are “closer to the ‘truth’ of history. constitutive of power: knowledge gives one power. is essentially proscriptive. but one has the power in given circumstances to constitute bodies of knowledge. its genealogy. “History is not some unmediated reality out there. and along with its source the perspective it might serve (Rivkin and Ryan 507). ‘anything goes’ attitude toward the writing of history.” 2 Power – [from Wolfreys] – “For Foucault. as Foucault suggests in the first volume of his History of Sexuality. verbal formations which are the ‘ideological products’ or cultural constructs of the historical conditions specific to an era” (Abrams 191).. in fact consists of what are called representations—that is. “Influenced at once by Foucauldian and Marxist theories of history. discourses and so on as valid or invalid.Lydia Ferguson D iscourse .. these researchers are arguing that the work is a sort of artifact frozen in historical time” (Rapaport 34).[from Wolfreys] – “Michael Foucault employs the idea of episteme to indicate a particular group of knowledges and discourses which operate in concert as the dominant discourses in any given historical period. Rather. the inevitability of personal bias makes it imperative that new historicists be aware of and as forthright as possible about their own psychological and ideological positions relative to the material they analyze so that their readers can have some idea of the human ‘lens’ through which they are viewing the historical issues at hand” (289). medicine. concerned more with imposing limits on its subjects. some stable background that the literary text reflects or refers to" (Rivkin and Ryan 506). the church. power implies knowledge. He also identifies epistemic breaks. even while knowledge is.
In her essay “Marxism and the New Historicism. including feminism. indeed on all matters that deeply affect people’s practical lives—matters best left.Lydia Ferguson “Thus historicism was the methodology that foregrounded the political the most and manifested the most capacity for judgment about politics. In class we’ve discussed the ways in which several critical theories. 2. that no discourse.” Catherine Gallagher discusses the accusations that new historicism is a “crude version of Marxism. What possible differences. H. It has struck down the doctrine of noninterference that forbade humanists to intrude on questions of politics. Veeser also outlines five key assumptions in his introduction that connect both practitioners and critics: 1. and race theory. and opposition uses the tools it condemns and risks falling prey to the practice it exposes. and economics. literature. if any. anthropology. In his introduction to The New Historicism. art. politics. that every act of unmasking. to experts who could be trusted to preserve order and stability in ‘our’ global and intellectual domains” (ix). critique. indeed in some cases on reducing it to a politics or a relation to power. It is more true to say that it is an ultimate formalism so “powerful” that it colonizes the very world as its “text” (Alan Liu). prevailing wisdom went. 4. Stephen Greenblatt “claimed that the ‘proper goal’ of his critical practice was ‘a poetics of culture’” rather than new historicism. power. unequivocal political meaning for this critical practice. can an adequate theory of the method be articulated. 3. Aram Veeser claims that the newly coined New Historicism “has given scholars new opportunities to cross the boundaries separating history. […] that a critical method and a language adequate to describe culture under capitalism participate in the economy they describe. is puzzling and certainly runs counter to what seem to me to be new historicism’s most valuable insights” (Veeser 37) 3 “Only on the basis of an adequate history of the New Historicism. I suggest. Is New Historicism any different in this regard? 2. post-colonialism. do you see in the terms? . seem to come automatically to us in today’s academy. 5. that every expressive act is embedded in a network of material practices. imaginative or archival.” stating that “the insistence on finding a single. that literary and non-literary "texts" circulate inseparably. in Brannigan 84). gives access to unchanging truths nor expresses inalterable human nature. but it was in its practice—especially in the 1990s and after— the least politically judgmental” (Birns 287). although the practical applications regardless of terminology were the same (qtd. This is because only an awareness of shared cultural contexts will provide the missing medium in which to see the commonality of the New Historicism and those criticisms it has so far sought to distinguish itself from […] it is simply not the case that the New Historicism is essentially different from formalism. (xi) 1.
Alan." Introduction to Modern Literary Theory. Jürgen. Print. Martin's. Ont. Liu.ucsb. 2001. In what way(s) does this idea correlate to Greenblatt’s discussion of Harsnett’s Declaration and Shakespeare’s King Lear? 4.htm>.com/theory. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth. Ed. In what ways could such material culture items contribute to a New Historicist reading of Austen? How would the results of such analyses contribute to the field at large? Abrams. and Geoffrey Galt Harpham. Foucault discusses sexuality as a conduit of power. Peterborough. ed. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP. "New Historicism. 2004. Cambridge. New York: Pantheon Books. 1990. 1. 2010. A Glossary of Literary Terms. New York: Routledge. soprano Julianne Baird gave a lecture and musical performance based on her research of Jane Austen’s music collection. Wolfreys. Print. What issues that we’ve discussed might fall under the category of a New Historicist reading? In what ways would applying this lens increase our understanding of the text and/or Austen’s world? 5. for Whose Use They Were Originally Made : The Whole Tending to Establish Fixed Principles in the Art of Laying Out Ground. The New Historicism. 2005. His “repressive hypothesis” posits that 18th century bourgeoisie power/control over the language and discourse of sex (as strictly relating to a husband and wife) created desire. <http://liu. Print.edu/cgi-bin/DLDecArts/DLDecArtsidx?type=header>. ed.kristisiegel.library. Print. Nicholas. H. In February. 2012. Tyson. New York: Vintage. New Historicism and Cultural Materialism. Brannigan. An Introduction. Web. Pieters. Print.: Broadview. 1994. "Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening: Collected from Designs and Observations Now in the Possession of the Different Noblemen and Gentlemen. M. 2012. 06 Apr. ---. Sheridan Smith.Lydia Ferguson 4 3.wisc. 2003. H.edu/thepower-of-formalism-the-new-historicism/>. 1989. Moments of Negotiation: The New Historicism of Stephen Greenblatt. ---. Vol. Web. . 1994. Introducing Literary Theories: A Guide and Glossary. 1972. Julie." University of Wisconsin Digital Collections. John. A. The History of Sexuality. Siegel. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Print. The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences. and Michael Ryan. Google Books. 1 Apr. Rivkin. This idea worked it’s way into New Historicism because Foucault’s claim conceived that “all attempts at opposition to power cannot help but be ‘complicitous’ with it” (qtd. <http://www. Kelly. New York: St. Throughout the semester we’ve been applying the various theories to Mansfield Park. Julian. or a lack (psychoanalytic basis). <http://digicoll.): Blackwell. Lois.. Kristi. Michael. 2012. Foucault. and thus societal discourse became saturated with the subject. Web. Malden (Mass. Theory After Theory: An Intellectual History of Literary Theory From 1950 to the Early 21st Century. M. In The History of Sexuality Vol I. Mass: MIT." The Power of Formalism: The New Historicism. Critique and Power: Recasting the Foucault/Habermas Debate. New York: Vintage. Michel. 1998. in Abrams 196) (See also Veeser #5 above). Print. Birns. 06 Apr. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. trans. 2006. 2012. Web. "Alan Liu. Veeser. New York: Routledge. Humphrey. Print. Archeology of Knowledge.english. Aram. Repton. 01 Apr.