Published on October 1, 2007
New Historicism & Cultural Materialism: New Historicism & Cultural Materialism Outline: Outline The Influence of Foucault 1. History; 2. Discourse Other Influences New Historicism examples Cultural Materialism Examples (1); (2); (3) Their Discontents and Your Views References Foucault: traditional historicism vs. Archaelogy: Foucault: traditional historicism vs. Archaelogy Traditional Historicism – the ‘past’ as a unified entity, with coherent development and organized by fixed categories such as ‘author,’ ‘spirit,’ ‘period’ and ‘nation.’ History as Archive: intersections of multiple discourses, with gaps and discontinuity, like book stacks in a library. archeology: a painstaking rediscovery of struggles Foucault: “historicize discourse” : Foucault: “historicize discourse” History—textualized; even every sentiment is in a certain discourse, and thus historically conditioned. effective history: knowledge as perspective, with slant and limitations; (e.g. Montrose) working ‘without constants’; “Historicity”: Working not to discover ‘ourselves,’ but to introduce discontinuity in histories as well as in us. How does Foucault’s views of discourse influence literary studies? Other Influences: Other Influences Clifford Geertz – Thick Description (e.g. cockfighting) Althusser – ideology; Raymond Williams Derrida – Différance Benjamin Paul Klee's "Angelus Novus" : Paul Klee's "Angelus Novus" Benjamin on Paul Klee's "Angelus Novus" : Benjamin on Paul Klee's "Angelus Novus" An angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. . . . But a storm is blowing from Paradise; . . . irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, This storm is what we call progress.” Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (Ryan 35) Benjamin Historical Materialism : Benjamin Historical Materialism “A historical materialism cannot do without the notion of a present which is not a transition, but in which time stands still and has come to a stop. For this notion defines the present in which he himself is writing history. Historicism gives the eternal image of the past; historical materialism supplies a unique experience with the past. . . .He remains in control of his powers, man enough to blast open the continuum of history.” (Ryan 39) New Criticism New Historicism : New Criticism New Historicism New Criticism: the text and text alone. History is brought back to literary studies and literature de-centered. Both are in a network of text. (Historicity of text, and textuality of history.) New Historicism: principles : New Historicism: principles (Veeser xi) “Every expressive act (speech or text) is embedded in a network of material practices” (production of texts or other types of productions); Language as context/Historicity: “Every act of unmasking, critiquing, and opposition uses the tools it condemns and risks falling prey to the practice it exposes”; Literature de-centered: “That literary and non-literary texts circulate inseparably”; Truth is provisional; human nature, a myth. “ No discourse, imaginative or archival, gives access to unchanging truths, nor expresses inalterable human nature” “finally, . . . , that a critical method and a language adequate to describe culture under capitalism participate in the economy they describe.” New Historicism: methods : New Historicism: methods Investigates three areas of concern: 1. the life of the author; 2. the social rules found within a text; 3. a reflection of a work’s historical situation in the text. Avoiding sweeping generalization of a text or a historical period, a new historicist pays close attention to the conflicts and the apparently insignificant details in history as well as the text. New Historicism: examples : New Historicism: examples An anecdote is used to interpret Twelfth Night. The prefaces to Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads, as well as contemporary literary reviews and capitalist system, are used to explain his views on poetry. Different versions of Sonnet 29 are studied to reveal the speaker’s economic concerns. Cultural Materialism: Cultural Materialism a literary criticism that places texts in a material, that is socio-political or historical, context in order to show that canonical texts, Shakespeare supremely, are bound up with a repressive, dominant ideology, yet also provide scope for dissidence. examines ideas and categorize them as radical or non-radical according to whether they contribute to a historical vision of where we are and where we want to be. (Wilson 35-36). Example (1): Paul Brown’s reading of The Tempest: Example (1): Paul Brown’s reading of The Tempest Instead of aesthetic harmony, truth and coherence, he sees the text as riven with contradictions which bear the traces of social conflicts. an intervention in contemporary colonialist practices Foregrounds what it seeks to cover (conflicts in colonialist ideologies). An example: Paul Brown’s reading of The Tempest (2): An example: Paul Brown’s reading of The Tempest (2) Example (2) Barker, et al. : Example (2) Barker, et al. To de-mystify contemporary Shakespeare --as shown in midsummer tourism at Stratford-upon-Avon construction of an English past which is picturesque, familiar and untroubled. Arden series of Shakespeare (eternal values of the texts vs. their historical backgrounds) Example (2) Barker, et al. (2) : Example (2) Barker, et al. (2) through examining his intertextuality or thru’ con-textualization. the inter-textual relations between Prospero’s versions of history with that of Ariel’s, Miranda’s and Caliban’s The moment of disturbance – when Prospero calls a sudden halt to the celebratory mask. the real dramatic moment because Prospero is anxious to keep the sub-plot of his play in its place. Contemporary Shakespearean Discourses in UK – as a ground for discrimination : Contemporary Shakespearean Discourses in UK – as a ground for discrimination GCE (General Certificate Exam) –”A” level at least one Shakespeare play Those on GCE “O” level and CSE (Certificate of Secondary Education) should be steered away from Shakespeare (Sinfield 138) – Contemporary Shakespearean Discourses in UK – exam questions : Contemporary Shakespearean Discourses in UK – exam questions Assumptions of unchanging or eternal values. “At the center of King Lear lies the question, “What is a man?” Discuss.” “The Winter’s Tale is much more concerned with the qualities of womanhood, its virtue, its insight, and its endurance”. Discuss.” “Compare Shakespeare’s treatment of the problem of evil in any two plays” (Sinfield 138-39). Their Discontents and Your Views: Their Discontents and Your Views Greenblatt –1) ideology as strategies of containment—no way out. 2) sloganistic: "I do not want history to enable me to escape the effect of the literary but to deepen it by making it touch the effect of the real, a touch that would reciprocally deepen and complicate history" (Learning 6). n sacrifice the structural investments of marxist thought. (James J. Paxson) Anne D. Hall : Anne D. Hall References: References Alan Sinfield, "Give an Account of Shakespeare and Education . . . ," in Dollimore and Sinfield, Political Shakespeare. Eds. Jonathan Dollimore, Alan Sinfield. Methuen 1984: 134-57. Paul Brown. “’This thing of Darkness I acknowledge mine’: The Tempest and the Discourse of colonialism.” Political Shakespeare. Barker, Francis and Peter Hume. “Nymphs and Reapers Heavily Vanish: The Discursive Con-texts of the Tempest.” Kiernan Ryan (ed.), New historicism and cultural materialism: a reader (London and New York: Arnold, 1996). Ryan, Kiernan. New Historicism and Cultural Materialism: A Reader. Hodder Arnold 1996. Wilson, Scott. Cultural Materialism: Theory and Practice. Blackwell Publishers, 1995.