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Sunday, March 24, 2013

New Historicism

Now I wonder whether I could extend my critique of cultural studies to "New Historicism."

The historicity of New Historicism is a fiction, I want to say. Not that this group of scholars is wrong about history, in the factual sense, but that they constructed fictional constructs in order to explain how other things are culturally constructed. Why not apply the same logic to their own enterprise?

Now on the one hand, this is a super-obvious point. It only matters, in some sense, if we can show that they were wrong about something in particular, otherwise it is just the same critique we can make of any hermeneutics. It is not the absolute truth. We would need a counter-narrative that explains things better, not just the cheap shot that New Historicism is yet another hermeneutical enterprise. So what?

The critique, then, would be that it pretends to be historical (better than other hermeneutics) in a way that it fails to live up to.

To say early modern texts are about gender, or colonialism, or whatever, is really to say that WE are about those things. They matter to us in particular ways. That is the filter we decide to use. There may be many areas of the "hermeneutic invisible" where we simply can't see things we aren't looking for.


undine said...

Good point about the perspective of New Historicism. It matters, and it provides another perspective, but those today won't see what scholars will see in 30 years.

Anonymous said...

Although I do not like it, the New Historicism. My feeling is that it is instead of a leftier analysis.

Something to help self satisfied, yet fearful moderates feel superior and secure.