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April 7, 2007

EL312: New and Improved! Historicism 3000--for all your critical needs

For some reason the idea of "New Historicism" makes me laugh. It's not an oxymoron (which is what it seems like at first glance), its definition is just a mental juxtaposition of the new way of using historicism with the old way of using historicism.

To be honest, I wasn't anticipating too much of a difference. I mean seriously: history hasn't changed since they started using it to look at lit. way-back-when. The only thing that's different is that there's MORE history now than ever before (and more now than when I typed that, and so on).

But in that grand addition of history from the time old historicism was the cat's meow and the advent of New Historicism, Keesey shows us the value of the criticism that's been the pivotal change to make the New Historicism actually "new." It's only new because it has the advantage of hindsight: with New Historicism we can use the formalist, reader-response, intertextual, mimetic, and deconstructivist criticisms to inform this (new and improved!) historicism.

Keesey gives us the deconstructive case-in-point: "...deconstruction has also offered a more direct challenge to historical criticism. By calling into question the very concepts of origin, telos, and cause, deconstruction has threatened to deconstruct the historian's as well as the metaphysician's enterprise" (410).

Well thank goodness someone's finally challenging all these historicists--someone's always challenging the other criticisms saying that they're leaving something out or ignoring a part of the text on purpose. It's about time someone push the historicists in the mud. Just like everyone else, the New Historicists have to consider the other forms of criticism and how they might debunk an argument. History doesn't stand on its own anymore just because "it really happened."

So essentially, New Historicists have to get their act together and not look like the old historicists sitting in their rocking chairs on a porch somewhere in Key West.

Keesey, Ch 7 (Introduction) -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by KarissaKilgore at April 7, 2007 3:34 PM


Karissa, what an excellent way of putting New Historicism! It seems with lit that it is never just "enough" to look at one aspect of the text- we must combine history with authorial-intent, formalism, etc. These New Historical critics are finally onto something if they understand the need for combining.

Posted by: Nessa at April 9, 2007 1:09 PM

Thanks, Vanessa! Instead of one kind of criticism being the "best" way to look at a text, it's like someone finally decided that looking at a bunch of them and coming up with a combined point of view was the best way to be informed... I like it. It's sort of like individual ingredients vs. the whole recipe. While butter and eggs might be good on their own, when they're mixed up with some cake batter the results are something butter nor eggs could have pulled off alone!

Posted by: Karissa at April 9, 2007 6:28 PM

OH Karissa, a cooking analogy. Makes me hungry...

Anyway. This idea of bunching them all together into a yummy pie (hehe) is wonderful. I know that there is still some theory behind it, but it seems to me that the different elements might be easier to understand in this one because of the blending for the filling.

Posted by: Tiffany at April 12, 2007 3:14 PM

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