's mother. (Montrose describes an extravagant and protracted entertainment in which Raleigh and Greville acted out this metaphor.) All this demonstrates what is meant in practice by insisting upon the historicity of the text and the textuality of history. Cultural materialism The British critic Graham Holderness describes cultural materialism as ‘a politicised form of historiography’. We can explain this as meaning the study of historical material (which includes literary texts) within a politicised framework, this framework including the present which those literary
Theory often eclipses the text, just as the moon's shadow obscures the sun in an eclipse, so that the text loses its own voice and begins to voice theory. This book provides summaries or descriptions of a number of important theoretical essays. It commences with an account of the 'liberal humanism' against which all newer critical approaches to literature, broadly speaking, define themselves. The book suggests a useful form of intensive reading, which breaks down the reading of a difficult chapter or article into five stages, as designated by the letters 'SQRRR': Survey, Question, Read, Recall, and Review. It explains the rise of English studies by indicating what higher education was like in England until the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The book talks about the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, Roland Barthes, and Jacques Derrida. It lists some differences and distinctions between structuralism and post-structuralism under the four headings: origins, tone and style, attitude to language, and project. Providing a clear example of deconstructive practice, the book then describes three stages of the deconstructive process: the verbal, the textual, and the linguistic. It includes information on some important characteristics of literary modernism practiced by various writers, psychoanalytic criticism, feminist criticism and queer theory. The book presents an example of Marxist criticism, and discusses the overlap between cultural materialism and new historicism, specific differences between conventional close reading and stylistics and insights on narratology. It covers the story of literary theory through ten key events.
been replaced by minute attention to the cultural logistics of specific periods – especially Early Modernism, Romanticism, and Victorianism. Secondly , there is evidence of a turning away from the dominant materialism epitomised by British cultural materialism and American new historicism, and even a drift towards aspects of ‘the spiritual’, whether conceived of as metaphorical renderings of various aspects of reading, writing, and textuality (see Julian Wolfreys, Victorian Hauntings: Speciality, Gothic, the Uncanny and Literature , Palgrave, 2001), or as
representative of this approach, but other exemplars would be Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Patricia Stubbs, and Rachel Brownstein. However, most of these are in fact American rather than ‘Anglo’, and this should make us question the usefulness of this widely accepted category. English feminist criticism is, after all, often distinctly different from American: it tends to be ‘socialist feminist’ in orientation, aligned with cultural materialism or Marxism, so that it is obviously unsatisfactory to try to assimilate it into a ‘non-theoretical’ category. The existence of
the literary work to the social assumptions of the time in which it is ‘consumed’, a strategy which is used particularly in the later variant of Marxist criticism known as cultural materialism (see Chapter 9 , pp. 184–9). A fifth Marxist practice is the ‘politicisation of literary form’, that is, the claim that literary forms are themselves determined by political circumstance. For instance, in the view of some critics, literary realism carries with it an implicit validation of conservative social structures; for others, the formal and metrical intricacies of
language and philosophy, rather than history or context. In the 1980s a shift occurred which is sometimes called the ‘turn to history’, whereby history, politics, and context were reinstated at the centre of the literary-critical agenda. Thus, in the early 1980s two new forms of political/historical criticism emerged, new historicism from the United States and cultural materialism from Britain. Both these take what might be called a ‘holistic’ approach to literature, aiming to integrate literary and historical study while at the same time maintaining some of the
in Chapter 9 , in which we saw how ‘British’ cultural materialism and ‘American’ new historicism are clearly linked in their approaches and aims, but differ in emphasis and ‘ancestry’. Generally, the preferred American term was ‘ecocriticism’, whereas ‘green studies’ was frequently used in the UK, and there was perhaps a tendency for the American writing to be ‘celebratory’ in tone whereas the British variant tended to be more ‘minatory’, that is, it sought to warn us of environmental threats emanating from governmental, industrial, commercial, and neo