New Historicism

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Information about New Historicism

Published on February 25, 2009

Author: mehdi_hassanian



New Historicism (Literary Theory)

1 Mehdi Hassanian esfahani New Historicism Mehdi Hassanian esfahani Matric number: GS22456 Critical Appreciation (BBL 5202) Dr. Rohimmi Noor University Putra Malaysia August 2008

2 Mehdi Hassanian esfahani sanian New Historicism in the history: Before talking about New Historicism, it is helpful to look at the timeline diagram of meline th literary theories in late 20 century. New Criticism (1920s – 1960s) s New Historicism (1980s – 1990s) 80s Cultural Criticism In this diagram, New Historicism is a kind of replacement for New Criticism, w and is followed by Cultural Criticism. It is worth mentioning that Cultural Criticism is ultural quite a branch of New Historicism. While the first two are opposing each other, istoricism. osing Cultural Criticism accepts New Historicism and tries to apply its theories on more specific subjects. I would start with a short review of New Criticism, and move icism, forward to Cultural Criticism, while the major work would be on New Historicism. m, w A brief review of New Criticism: After decades of reading about a text, when Traditional Historical [and Biographical] and Approach had focused on extra-text materials, such as biography of the author, to understand and criticize a work of art, New Criticism claimed that the emphasis hat should be upon the close reading and the text itself as an independent entity, and itself, endent not upon the external circumstances or effects or historical position of the work. mstances It is not that much important to know about the author’s biography or its historical or cultural background as New Criticism says, instead, a critic should pay round, attention to individual words; the only present elements of the text, and look at rds; imagery, metaphor, rhythm, meter, and the like to find the meaning and beauty of the , text. They rejected any kind of criticism based on extra-text sources, especially extra ources, biography, and advocated the explication or close reading of the text sentences, and xt, syntax in order to find the true [hidden] idea of the author among their words. rue eir

3 Mehdi Hassanian esfahani sanian Once again, let’s look at the diagram; e New Criticism (1920s – 1960s) New Historicism (1980s – 1990s) 0s Cultural Criticism What is New Historicism? The term suggests that it is a new view to literature, rooted in historicism. That’s true, s icism. but it is actually a reaction toward New Criticism. Comparing with previous literary n h theories, it would lead us to an understanding about New Historicism o m. First of all, there is a major difference between Traditional Historicism and al New Historicism; - New Historicism believes that history is a story, narrated by historians and elieves historians, not a set of documents to make facts. They assert that history is narrated story subjectively, as no one is free of bias, and not objectively as Traditional Historicism bias itional assumes. They would explain f furthermore, that this prejudice happens in two ways: First about the viewpoint of the narrators; it is very obvious that history is narrated he story differently in different countries. World’s history would have been different if Nazi ntries. n army had won WWII. Secondly, it is the priority that historians apply toward historical ondly, y events, when they try to see and narrate some happenings, meanwhile ignore and ee nwhile try to forget others. This can be even unconsciously. n unconscious - Believing that every narration i subjective, New Historicism rejects the ery is ricism prominent account of the power narration of history. Here, the words of a jobless middle-class teenage guy a equal to the official statements of a president. are resident. - Concerning about the ignored parts of history and the marginalized people in inalized society, New Historicism eeven tries to explore and discover these forgotten areas e more. It prefers to study a pulp fiction rather than an academic theory book; or to heory analyze a movie based on a book rather than the Pulitzer winner b book! Analyzing a more popular issue brings about the chance of plurality in voices, which causes a , more accurate understating of it. g - Unlike Traditional Historicism, New Historicism states that Power (which was once the only reliable source of narrating history) is never confined to a single urce fined person or a single level of society. It moves through the culture by the exchange of y ideas between the members of society, as well as the exchange of the goods or ers e

4 Mehdi Hassanian esfahani human beings. It influences the culture, and is influenced by the culture. In other words, historical events, as well as texts and artifacts are shaped by, and shape their culture at the same time. That’s why New Historicism sharply rejects New Criticism’s notion of close reading of a text in an isolated situation, and asserts that a text should be studied in its context. Social and political orientation can influence the work of art produced in that situation, meanwhile, the works of art produced in a society can give a clue to an accurate understanding of history. To illustrate, I want to look at a phenomenon in Iran, which is Ahmadi-nejad. Traditional Historical approach will discuss his words, his biography and his acts in a particular time of the political history of Iran. But New Historical approach claims that it is not sufficient. In order to understand this particular period of history, one should analyze the culture in which Ahmadi-nejad appeared. New Historicism doesn’t analyze the phenomenon in an isolated manner, rather asks why the phenomenon happened, and how? It was the passive voice of lower middle-class in society, it may claim, and their economical needs that brought about Ahmadi-nejad to power. Consequently New Historicism asserts that a literary text, like any other phenomenon, is formed and structured by the particular conditions of a time and place, and should be discussed in its own context, i.e. the social and cultural patterns of that era, and cannot be understood fully unless one considers these influences, too. Why do we need to study literature?! As we discussed now, New Historicism says that history is narrated subjectively and should be interpreted (it is not a fact to be accepted). In search of a clue to interpret the history, it finds literature as a way to reach the culture and society of the time, in which particular phenomenon has happened. This is the first function of literature, in New Historicism; to help us interpret history more accurately. Next step is the usage of New Historicism in literature. In this case, the procedure is the same. One tries to understand the cultural and social setting of the time, in which a book was introduced, to understand the text better. New Historicism wants to know why a particular text was written in a particular time in a particular society. It may discuss the other literary works of the time, or analyze the political, social related issues in order to find more information regarding the time, place and situation that produced the work. Furthermore, New Historicism would try to interpret the culture of a time, by discussing all its available materials, such as literary works, any social, political, artistic or popular documents, or even the written history of the time.

5 Mehdi Hassanian esfahani sanian Conclusions: 1. History, like any other narrations such as books and novels, is written ther subjectively. Therefore we should talk about interpretations of event not the ore events, facts. 2. The issue we want to discuss in New Historicism, which could be a political ould phenomenon or a book, i influenced by its social and cultural context, and is tural con has an influence on it too. That’s why we cannot analyze it as an isolated n creation, because it is a cultural and social production of that time. t 3. New Historicism tends to discuss more popular events. Ignoring noble and nds noring “high” culture, it tends to stick to middle-class interests, such as TV programs ds h and pulp fiction. 4. New Historicism tends to discuss more neglected subjects, such as post- nds ts, post colonial, African-American, lesbian, gay, queer issues, as well. erican, issues ell. Prominent figures of New Historicism: << Stephen Greenblatt (born: 1943) is an : American literary critic, theorist and scholar. st Greenblatt is regarded by many as one of the any founders of New Historicism. His works have . been influential since the early 1980s when he ly introduced the term quot;cultural poeticsquot; (or New Historicism). Greenblatt has written and edited numerous books and articles relevant to New s Historicism, the study of culture, Renaissance ure, studies and Shakespeare studies and is considered to be an expert in these fields.

6 Mehdi Hassanian esfahani sanian >> Hippolyte Adolphe Taine (1828 - 1893) was 1828 a French critic and historian. n. He argued that a literary work is less the product of its author's imaginations than the ginations social circumstances of its creati creation; the three main aspects of which Taine called hich race (nation), milieu (environment), and nvironment), moment (time). Works Cited: Abrams, M. H. A glossary of literary terms Heinle & Heinle: USA, 1999. terms. 999. Bressler, Charles E. Literary criticism: an introduction to theory and practice Upper ry d practice. Saddle River: New Jersey, 2007. Myers, D. G. “The New Historicism in literary study.” In Academic Questions 2. mic 2 Winter 1988-89, 27-36. Rice, Philip, and Patricia Waugh. Modern literary theory. Edward Arnold: Great ard Britain, 1989. Tyson, Lois. Critical theory today. Garland Publishing: USA, 1999.

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