The term ‘newhistoricism’ was coined by the American critic Stephen Greenblatt, whose book Renaissance Self-Fashioning: from More to Shakespeare (1980) is usually regarded as its beginning. However, similar tendencies can be identified in work by various critics published during the 1970s, a good example being J. W. Lever's The Tragedy of State: A Study of Jacobean Drama (published by Methuen in 1971, and re-issued in 1987 with an introduction by Jonathan Dollimore). This brief and epoch-making book challenged conservative critical views
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.
Introducing contingency and that which did not happen as necessary and revealing
conditions both of Romanticism itself and of our critical relationship with it,
Counterfactual Romanticism explores the affordances of counterfactualism as a
heuristic and as an imaginative tool. Innovatively extending counterfactual
thought experiments from history and the social sciences to literary
historiography and literary criticism and theory, the volume reveals the ways in
which the shapes of Romanticism are conditioned by that which did not come to
pass. Exploring – and creatively performing – various modalities of
counterfactual speculation and inquiry across a range of Romantic-period
authors, genres and concerns, and identifying the Romantic credentials of
counterfactual thought, the introduction and eleven chapters in this collection
offer a radical new purchase on literary history, on the relationship between
history and fiction, on our historicist methods to date – and thus on the
Romanticisms we (think we) have inherited. Counterfactual Romanticism provides a
ground-breaking method of re-reading literary pasts and our own reading
presents; in the process, literary production, texts and reading practices are
unfossilised and defamiliarised. To emancipate the counterfactual imagination
and embrace the counterfactual turn and its provocations is to reveal the
literary multiverse and quantum field within which our far-from-inevitable
literary inheritance is located.
This book explores key critical debates in the humanities in recent times in the context of the legitimation crisis widely felt to be facing academic institutions, using Derrida's idea of leverage in the university. In particular, it concerns an account for the malaise in the university by linking critical developments, discourses and debates in the modern humanities to a problem of the institution itself. The book finds within these discourses and debates the very dimensions of the institution's predicament: economic, political, ideological, but also, inseparably, intellectual. It looks at some of the recurring themes arising in the early key texts of new historicism and cultural materialism. The book also argues that these approaches in a number of ways orient their critical strategies according to certain kinds of logics and structures of reflection. It instances disorientation and leverage in the university by exploring the problematic doubleness of economics as indeterminately both inside and outside contemporary cultural theory. The book also argues that the interdisciplinary approach of cultural analysis has a certain amount of difficulty positioning economics as either simply an outside or an inside. The orientation and leverage within the university apparently offered by the development of cultural studies and by certain forms of interdisciplinarity comes at the cost of an irresolvable disorientation between the object and the activity of criticism.
Reflections on new historicism and cultural materialism
orientation ostensibly founded on a
repudiation of other directions. The ‘new’ or
‘radical’ kinds of criticism I want to discuss in this
chapter have by different means pointed the way for various assaults
on ‘ahistorical’, ‘apolitical’
deconstruction over the last few years. Yet the
‘founding’ texts of newhistoricism and cultural
materialism in fact
Defending poetry, or, is there an early
Is there an early modern aesthetic?
What does one call the space currently occupied by aesthetics before aesthetics emerges?
This question appears within the space occupied by what has become known in certain
literary-critical circles as the early modern period, broadly defined as 1500–1700.1
Formulation of the idea of the early modern can be taken as an exemplary moment in
the permeation of a ‘new’ historicism through literary studies since the early 1980s,
about the presence of the aesthetic necessary in the
Formulation of the idea of the early modern can be
taken as an exemplary moment in the permeation of a
‘new’ historicism through literary studies since the
early 1980s, most obviously through the twin historicisms of
cultural materialism and cultural poetics. 1 The periodising title early modern
engagement with earlier literature.
Theory and feminist criticism certainly helped shake up the boundaries
between literature and culture. Indeed, one could argue that theory in
particular whetted the appetite for the very history it rejected, creating a
craving for context, for history, and for political significance. Literature
seemed far too important to be only about itself. And so historicism
returned with a vengeance, advertising its novelty, and perhaps its links
to New Criticism in its name – NewHistoricism.6 Stephen Greenblatt,
its founder and leading
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 newhistoricism, 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
takes a more pragmatic approach to it than Greenblatt’s ‘self-fashioning’ model. This in turn links those studies to a second critical movement, which developed alongside NewHistoricism and had a significant impact on early modern authorship studies: the History of the Book.
One of the most prominent scholars of early modern authorship was Richard Helgerson, whose work on literary self-image shows the influence of both NewHistoricism and the History of the Book. It is characterised by a materialist focus on the author’s relationship to