New Historicism

As much as I know about 'New Historicism' is that it "is an approach to the interpretation of texts that attempts to combine anthropological and historical methods with the insights of post-structuralism. Initially a school of literary studies in America (Stephen Greenblatt identified and named it in 1982), its influence is now felt in many areas of cultural studies. New Historicists aim to 'ground' the meanings (note the plural) of texts in the particular historical conditions of their production, distribution and consumption."1

H. Aram Veeser, introducing an anthology of essays, The New Historicism (1989), noted some key assumptions that continually reappear in New Historicist discourse; they were:

  • that every expressive act is embedded in a network of material practices;
  • that every act of unmasking, critique and opposition uses the tools it condemns and risks falling prey to the practice it exposes;
  • that literary and non-literary "texts" circulate inseparably;
  • that no discourse, imaginative or archival, gives access to unchanging truths, nor expresses inalterable human nature;
  • that a critical method and a language adequate to describe culture under capitalism participate in the economy they describe.2

1 Ward, Glenn (2003) Teach Yourself Postmodernism, page 111 (Hodder Education) ISBN 978-0-340-85970-4

2 Veeser (1989) The New Historicism, "Introduction", page xi (Routledge) via


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