Culture Studies

and New Historicism

 

Cultural studies, was first named New historicism by Stephen Greenblatt. Cultural studies “involves viewing and analyzing practically any recorded phenomenon, present or past, as a social text,” including phenomenon not usually considered text, with a tendency to seek out subjects not considered to be art traditionally. (1207)

 

Michel Foucault

- Twentieth-century French archaeologist, historian, and philosopher.

 -Redefined the concept of history. History is neither real nor objective.  Not real because we only see it through representations of it (history books).  Not objective because it is written by a subject constituted by society, ruled by its discursive practices (methods of expression that are also methods of oppression, similar to the Marxist hegemony)

- History is NOT Linear (does not have a definite beginning, middle, and end).

- History is NOT Teleological (purposefully going forward toward some known end).

- Each culture/era has its own episteme (The perceptions of the nature of reality and the sets of the acceptable and unacceptable standards of behavior of a certain society in a certain period of history functioning within the society’s own discursive practices.)

 

Stephen Greenblatt

- Cultural anthropologist who stresses that “one needs to be immersed in a culture’s relationships to bring out a credible report of what events mean to their participants.”  He calls this thick description.

- No observer of any culture can be objective, so anthropology, like history, cannot be a precise science. (1214)

- Author of "Improvisation and power", and Renaissance self- fashioning.

- He was not satisfied with what New Criticism provides.

- He wants to understand literature from a historical perspective.

                                                                                                             

New historicism is not a theory but a set of practices (1205)

Derives from:

1.                    Foucault’s notion that “texts within a particular period are linked by a specific episteme.

2.                    Geertz’ notion that all cultures “operate through symbolic representation and ritual enactment of conflict.

3.                    White’s notion that tropes used by writers can guide us to the way historians think and to the fact that representations of the past are filtered through language.

4.                    Bourdieu and Certeau’s notion that “the structure of learned professions alters the way knowledge and the power associated with it are originated and distributed.” (1206)

 

New historicism is a method based on the parallel reading of literary and non-literary texts, usually of the same historical period, in which the literary and non-literary texts are given equal weight and constantly inform of interrogate each other.

New historicism is interested in history as represented and recorded in written documents, in history-as-text. Historical events as such are seen as irrecoverably lost.

 

- The beginning of new Historicism dates to 1979-1980.

- The flowers of cultural study can be divided into two main branches

- Culture Materialism – British branch

- New Historicism – American branch

- New Historicism seeks to move beyond aporia (undecidability) rather than assert that a text has many possible meaning.

- They redefined the meaning of a text.

- New Historicism is concerned with culture, history, and literature.