new Historicism

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A term applied to a trend in American academic literary studies in the 1980s that emphasized the historical nature of literary texts and at the same time (in contradistinction from ‘old’ historicisms) the ‘textual’ nature of history. As part of a wider reaction against purely formal or linguistic critical approaches such as the New Criticism and deconstruction, the new historicists, led by Stephen Greenblatt, drew new connections between literary and non‐literary texts, breaking down the familiar distinctions between a text and its historical ‘background’ as conceived in previous historical forms of criticism. New historicism is less a system of interpretation than a set of shared assumptions about the relationship between literature and history, and an essayistic style that often develops general reflections from a startling historical or anthropological anecdote. Other scholars of Renaissance (or ‘early modern’) culture associated with Greenblatt include Jonathan Goldberg, Stephen Orgel, and Louis Montrose.

Subjects: Literature.

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