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New Historicism

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Kilah Hatfield

on 2 December 2013

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Transcript of New Historicism

New Historicism/Historical Criticism
Hamlet
Edition

Major Players
Here are three major players when it comes to New Historicism.
New Historicism
Stephen Greenblatt is an American literary critic. Greenblatt is responsible for giving New Historicism its name. He is considered to be one of the founders of New Historicism.
Stephen Greenblatt
Michel Foucault was a French philosophical historian. Many new historicists believe that Foucault's writings brought the school to life.
Michel Foucault
Karin Coddon
Historicism
Historicism is a philosophical theory which insists that history has a significant influence on literature. Historicism is the predecessor of New Historicism, and it had a great amount of influence on the school of New Historicism. Therefore, it is important to understand Historicism when trying to grasp the concept of New Historicism.
G. W. F. Hegel
The philosophy of Historicism was fully developed by G. W. F. Hegel in England during the 19th century.

Hegel maintains that all human activities and behaviors are defined by their histories; therefore, they can be understood completely only by thoroughly researching the history.
Karl Marx
Karl Marx, who has been described as one of the most influential figures in history, was largely influenced by Hegel.

His writings contained many examples of historicism.
The Zeitgeist
The term Zeitgeist, or "spirit of time" is a term credited to G. W. F. Hegel as well, even though he never actually used the word.

Hegel believed, and passed on his belief, that all pieces of literature are affected by the time period that they were written in.
New Historicism vs. Historicism
Example of Historical Criticism
The plot of Hamlet has been used by many story creators. Some even believe that the Lion King was inspired by Shakespeare's Hamlet and when you think about it, it makes sense.

Simba parallels to Hamlet
Hamlet and Simba speak to their father after death and are influenced to change their ways.
Both were told by the dead fathers to take their throne back.
Both opposed the newly given power to their uncles.
New Historicism in
Hamlet
The Time Period
The Location
Hamlet
was written in London, England. Elizabethan society was very successful for a few years, especially for the wealthy. It was a time and place where theater and playwrights, such as Shakespeare, gained extreme popularity.
The Government
Queen Elizabeth was the ruler during this time. Shakespeare's writings were influenced by the presence of the crown. Writers often wrote in a way that was flattering to the rulers.
Hermeneutics
Historicism is oftentimes considered to be Hermeneutical.

Hermeneatics is a theory that emphasizes the importance of text interpretation.

Text interpretation is very important in historicism.
Both New Historicists and Historicists analyze a piece of literature's historical context in order to fully understand it.
New Historicists take into consideration the feminist ideas, the cultural ideas, and the Marxists ideas when analyzing literature.

New Historicists also take a more broad approach to examining history than Historicists.
Historicism focuses more on facts and events in history than New Historicism does.

Historicists are more likely to believe that a story has one single historical context.
Background Info of Hamlet Devereux
The Scene
Act 2
Scenes 1-2
Relation to Historical Criticism
Scene Analysis
Hamlet was written early in the seventeenth century, approximately between 1600 and 1602. It was written during the Elizabethan era.
Kilah M. Hatfield
Shon Rogers

In order to analyze
Hamlet
like a New Historicist, we must first do research about when and where the book was written. Afterwards, we will be able to connect the story to the time and place that it was written along with the people that it was written for.
Stephen Greenblatt’s ideas about New Historicism came to life within his writings. To him, it was rather unintentional. Greenblatt says that he “wasn’t trying to start a school or imagining [himself] as founding a new movement.” Instead, Greenblatt was merely aiming to share his ideas and views on ways of analyzing literature in order to gain greater understanding of what is being read. He did, however, hope his views would have some type of impact, yet he never expected the impact nearly as large as it became.
Foucault's ideas on New Historicism centered on power. His ideas can be associated with the ideas of Karl Marx. Foucault, like Marx, believed that power determined everything, including literature, truth, society, and life. Unlike Karl Marx, who only believed that the upper class possessed power, Foucault believed that power was distributed throughout an entire society. While Karl Marx believed that power was an oppressive, dominating force, Foucault believed that power simply determined the way things worked. These beliefs were present in his writings, which influenced many other New Historicist writers.
In Karin Coddon's essay, she incorporated the New Historicist theory while examining
Hamlet
. Coddon examined the madness displayed by the main character, Hamlet, and the madness displayed by Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, who was eventually executed in 1601. Through her analysis, Coddon found that madness is used as "an instrument of social and political disorder." Hamlet's madness was used as a cover during his plot to avenge his father and kill his uncle. Similarly to Hamlet, Devereux's melancholic state and madness was soon followed by treason against the crown.

"Philosophy is the history of philosophy" - G. W. F. Hegel
The theory of hermeneutics insists that in order to acquire complete understanding and explanation of a text, it must be fully analyzed and interpreted. These philosophies go hand in hand with Historicism and, furthermore, New Historicism.
Hamlet
was written during a time of religious upheaval and rebellion. During this time period, plays involving rebellion, tragedy, and revenge were very common and popular. This had much influence on the way that Shakespeare wrote the play.
In these scenes, Polonius attempts to explain the cause of Hamlet's madness.
(Insert why Polonius thought Hamlet was mad)
Karl Marx's writings and beliefs influenced future New Historicists such as Michel Foucault.
When did it come about?
New Historicism is relatively new. It came to fruition mainly around the 1980s, and it continues to grow today.
What is New Historicism?
New Historicism is a literary theory that places great importance on the critical analysis of both the history of a piece of literature and the time period of the reader.

New Historicists also acknowledge that while the author's time period and culture influences how the text was written, the reader's time period and culture affects how he or she reads and perceives the text.
How did it come about?
New Historicism was primarily based on the work of Stephen Greenblatt and influenced by the philosophies of Michel Foucault.

Much of New Historicism was a response to both those that practiced New Criticism and those that opposed New Criticism.
In what ways can it support our reading of literature?
New Historicism supports our reading of literature by explaining more about who the author was, what influenced the way that they wrote, and how their writings were received during that time.

New Historicism reveals information hidden within the text of a piece of literature that further supports reading and comprehension.
What are the benefits of New Historical criticism?
With the help of New Historicism, readers are able to have a better understanding of what they are reading.

They are able to make connections about the time period that the author was writing in and have a better understanding of other factors that may have influenced the author to write the way that they did.
There were others that had an influence on New Historicism. We've just outlined a few of the major players.
Key Points
Polonius speaks with Ophelia about Hamlet. She tells him how Hamlet is in love with her. She mentioned that she did what her father told her to do by throwing away his letters and not letting him see her.
Scene 1
Scene 2
Claudius, Polonius, and Gertrude finally meet. Polonius tells what his daughter told him and says this is why Hamlet has been acting crazy. They want to get proof of this so they plan to set up a stakeout to spy on Ophelia and Hamlet. Soon after Hamlet approaches and Claudius questions him. Hamlet answers his questions irrelevantly which only proves Polonius' point.
Scene 1
It may seem odd how Ophelia felt the need to report how her relationship with Hamlet was going but these were times when the female was seen as "incapable" in the eyes of men. Her father ordered her to not see him and don't take any letters from him. She apparently had done so without any complaint.
Karin Coddon was a published author and political commentator. She is the author of the essay, "Suche Strange Desygns," in which she uses the new historicist theory to examine
Hamlet
.
History of the Second Earl of Essex
In Karin's essay mentioned earlier, she compared Hamlet to a man named Robert Devereux 2nd Earl of Essex. This is more of an example of Historical Criticism because she directly relates Robert to Hamlet.

Robert was seen as a man with some psychological problems. When given military orders by the queen he would disobey them and it would cost them greatly. Battles that were suppose to be easy wins would turn out to be embarrassing loses. He even walked into the queen's room when she wasn't properly dressed. What was expected of him didn't really matter, things like appointing people knights was a common thing. This was even rare for the queen to do. She eventually released him of his duties and he responded by getting some of his followers to try and start a revolt among the people. Unfortunately for him it failed.

He was arrested and during his trial he would make claims that people of the catholic church were trying to kill him. He would eventually be decapitated for treason.
SO WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NEW HISTORICISM AND HISTORICISM?

Historical Criticism is simply using the facts of a certain time or historical background to understand why something was written. It's like putting yourself in the shoes of someone in the past.

New Historicism is going beyond that and is also saying that the reader's response is also affected by his or her current times. The history of the author and the critic is also acknowledged.

Introduction
It's obvious that the people in the entertainment business want to stay relevant. Therefore the majority of their work will be related to stuff that's happening at that time. No one wants to hear about something irrelevant because it's irrelevant.
This desire to be relevant is the reason why historical criticism and new historicism exist.

During this time period, many people believed in ghosts, spirits, and apparitions. This may have influenced why Shakespeare incorporated ghosts into his plays, such as the ghost of King Hamlet.
Historical Criticism
So you might ask why Shakespeare wrote about this. Well Shakespeare wrote for royalty. He didn't want to do anything that displeased them. In those days freedom of speech wasn't really a big thing. They weren't hesitant to kill people if they felt like you attacked them or other things very important to them, like religion.He knew this might be an interesting story to them since it relates to what had recently took place in their government.
While plays involving revenge were very popular, revenge was highly frowned upon in this society. It was frowned upon by the church, the state, and the regular morals of the people. Revenge was seen as a sin, and it was a condemned action. This common social belief, may have impacted the fate of characters in Shakespeare's plays that plotted for revenge.
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