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The New Historicist understands literature to be rooted in its cultural and authorial connections.In fact, the study of literary text is only one element of the New Historicist's exploration of the Like the Marxist critic, the New Historicist explores the place of literature in an on-going contest for power within society but does not define this contest narrowly in terms of an economic class struggle.1) every expressive act is embedded in a network of material practices; 2) every act of unmasking, critique and opposition uses the tool it condemns and risks falling prey to the practice it exposes; 3) literary and non-literary "texts" circulate inseparably; 4) no discourse, imaginative or archival, gives access to unchanging truths or expresses unalterable human nature; and 5) a critical method and a language adequate to describe culture under capitalism participate in the economy they describe.
Their words for immanence and transcendence were intrinsic and extrinsic; the forms of theoretical transcendence they sought to repel were extrinsic historical and biographical information, but also political opinions, sociological generalizations, and Freudian concerns: the old historicism plus Marx and Freud.186 [To abstract some useful stereotype of this movement] can only be done, I think, by storytelling (we had this, and now we have this); and it is a story I propose to tell by way of the changes wrought by the introduction of the concept of a text.
Those changes do not at first take place in the literary area, but they return to it later from an outside modified by the notion of textuality, which now seems to reorganize the objects of other disciplines and to make it possible to deal with them in new ways which suspend the troublesome notion of objectivity. At the same time, it must be said that the notion of the homology rapidly proved to be an embarrassment and turned out to be as crude and vulgar an idea as base and superstructure ever was, the excuse for the vaguest kind of general formulations and the most unenlightening assertions of identity between entities of utterly distinct magnitude and properties.188 We will therefore describe the New Historicism as a return to immanence and to a prolongation of the procedures of homology which eschews homologys theory and abandons the concept of structure.
The reader is thus invited to consider the whole story as a progressive uncovering of the "truth" of a symbol that constitutes one of the most enigmatic elements of American literature.
Critics over the years focused on this search for a hidden significance, and put forward their own interpretation of this "truth." The scarlet letter has thus been assigned almost as many different meanings as there are words beginning with the letter A in the English dictionary.
For literary studies, historicism impacts text selection.
In formalist literary studies, texts are typically restricted to "creative writing": poetry, fiction, drama, with occasional autobiographies and essays.
New historicists attempt to describe the culture of a period by reading many different kinds of texts and paying close attention to many different dimensions of a culture, including political, economic, social, and aesthetic concerns.
They regard texts not simply as a reflection of the culture that produced them but also as productive of that culture playing an active role in the social and political conflicts of an age.
Instead of offering my own A-word as a key to understanding Nathaniel Hawthorne's masterpiece, I would like to focus on the notion of symbol itself, and on the way the author organizes this search for a meaning.
The narrator frequently uses this word throughout the romance, and its various occurrences enable us to shape a definition that corresponds to his personal use of symbols.