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New Historicism and Hamlet by William Shakespeare

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James Collette

on 13 November 2012

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Transcript of New Historicism and Hamlet by William Shakespeare

New Historicism Hamlet by William Shakespeare The Literary Theory Time Period Key Concepts Terms New Historicism Related to Shakespeare's Hamlet Prominent Examples In Literature Resources New Historicism is a modern literary theory that concentrates on how events, places, and culture within a society affect, or influence a written work. New Historicists often look for allusions to characteristics of the time period a novel was written in. New Historicism was highly debated in the late 1970s in contrast to the literary theory of New Criticism. By the 1980s, New Historicism was widely accepted and named with the influences of Stephen Greenblatt and Michel Foucault, two popular founders and supporters of the theory. Poetry by Emily Bronte
Shakespearean plays such as Hamlet
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson Stephen Greenblatt Bauhrach. Stephen Jay Greenblatt. N.d. Evenfiel, None. Wikipedia. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. He influenced the literary theory of New Historicism with his attention to minute details of cultures and history through novels, particularly with books written during the Renaissance. His methods of literary criticism inspired others to follow, leading to the acceptance of New Historicism as a valid literary theory. Michel Foucault He is quite possibly one of the most influential literary critics of the last century. His historical interests stretch over a broad range of subjects including epistemology, subjectivity, and ideology, all the way to political science and anthropology. He was quick to question and analyze disciplines in areas such as medicine, criminal science, government, and literature, causing many critics to follow suit, questioning connections to these areas within literature. These thoughts, spurred by his intellect, moved towards support of New Historicism. There is no “universal” quality to literature. Insight emerges out of a specific and complex historical moments and facts.
Literary texts are “embedded” within their historical context.
New Historicism sees the author as subject to the forces of the culture that he or she works within.
Readers, like authors, are subject to dominant ideology and tend to read texts in ways that confirm their own experience. "I believe in broken, fractured, complicated narratives, but I believe in narratives as a vehicle for truth, not simply as a form of entertainment, though I love entertainment, but also a way of conveying what needs to be conveyed about the works that I care about."
-Stephen Greenblatt Badler, Randolph. Michel Foucault. 2007. A Piece of Monologue. Web. 31 Oct. 2012. <http://www.apieceofmonologue.com/2012/09/michel-foucault-maurice-blanchot-theory-philosophy.html “I don't write a book so that it will be the final word; I write a book so that other books are possible, not necessarily written by me.”
-Michel Foucault New Historicism- seeks to find meaning in a text by considering the work within the framework of the prevailing ideas and assumptions of its historical era. Definition Context New Historicists reject the New Critical precept that texts are autonomous units that should be examined without comparing them with history. New Historicists, in contrast, argue that texts are always intimately connected to their historical and social context, especially when texts attempt to repress that context. To put it another way, history serves as the repressed subconscious of literature. Ideology New Historicists tend to follow the post-Lacanian and post-Marxist view of ideology; rather than see ideology as false consciousness, as something that is obscuring one's perception of the truth, New Historicists argue that to recognize your own ideology is like pushing the bus you're riding on, since it is so much a part of the way you perceive the world and its workings. Some common New Historic terms would include:
anecdote
archive
culture
society
hegemony (or type of) Hamlet Background Hamlet is William Shakespeare's longest play, and like many of his works, is a tragedy. Written between 1599 and 1602, Hamlet has become an iconic example of romance, madness, paranoia, blood thirst, and the supernatural. Shakespeare stamp with Hamlet. 1964. Stamp. 123RF, United Kingdom. Web. 4 Nov 2012. <http://www.123rf.com/photo_5585804_uk-circa-1964--shakespeare-stamp-with-hamlet-united-kingdom-circa-1964.html Summary Hamlet is about the events following Hamlet's realization, after seeing his father's ghost, that his father, the former King of Denmark, was poisoned by his brother Claudius. Throughout the story, Hamlet seems to be mad as his paranoia and suspicions overwhelm him. When Claudius suspects Hamlet is on to him, he sends him away to England to be killed. Hamlet escapes back to Denmark, where he fences with his now dead lover's brother Laertes. In the end, Hamlet forces Claudius to drink from a poisoned cup of wine, while he himself is dying from a wound made by Laertes' sword. In true form of Shakespeare's tragedies, every main character is dead by the end. Timeline New Historicists are quick to analyze the role of the monarchy in the play of Hamlet, especially since most sovereign nations were under such type of rule, including England, Shakespeare's homeland. One observation made is that the monarchs within the play are male, representing a patriarchal monarchy, though in England at the time the play was written, a woman, Queen Elizabeth I was in power. This could suggest that Shakespeare supported a patriarchal society, especially since his other works include male leads or monarchs. Women are usually portrayed as a negative influence or looked down upon by the characters. Hamlet basically accuses his mother of being a whore for marrying and sleeping with Claudius, and ultimately resents her for it. To analyze the play in a New Historic view, one must also point out the importance of Hamlet's supposed madness that leads him to paranoia, revenge, and murder. In the Elizabethan times of Shakespeare, madness was by definition: "internalization of disobedience." Therefore, a conclusion can be drawn that Shakespeare roots Hamlet's insanity to the plea for revenge made by his father's ghost. Hamlet feels guilty and that he has disobeyed his father by taking so long to avenge his death. This is noted when Hamlet sees his father's ghost for the second time after berating his mother to see if she knew of Claudius killing her former husband. His father's ghost says to Hamlet that he has taken too long to avenge his murder. Another detail New Historicsts point out in regards to Hamlet is that the ghost of Hamlet's father is mentioned as being in Purgatory. Purgatory was quite controversial during the time of Shakespeare, especially since during the reign of Elizabeth I, former Catholics (such as William's family were forced to convert to Protestant beliefs, which deny the existence of Purgatory. Shakespeare would have likely included this fact about the former King's ghost to incite debate and controversy whether he believed in it or not. #3 #1 #2 • Felluga, Dino. “General Introduction to New Historicism.” Introductory Guide to Critical Theory. Web. 31 Oct. 2012. <http://www.cla.purdue.edu/english/theory/newhistoricism/modules/introduction.html>.

• Karpinski, Joanne. "Deconstruction, New Historicism, and Hamlet." EN 466 Literary Theory. Regis University. Web. 4 Nov 2012. <http://academic.regis.edu/jkarpins/Handouts for EN 466/deconstruction.htm>.

• Crunelle-Vaungh, Anny. "Renaissance Forum."Renaissance Forum. 2.2 (1997): n. page. Web. 4 Nov. 2012. < http://www.hull.ac.uk/renforum/v2no2/crunelle.htm>.

•Felluga, Dino. “Terms Used by New Historicism.” Introductory Guide to Critical Theory. Oct. 2012. Perdue U. 4 Nov. 2012. <http://www.cla.purdue.edu/english/theory/newhistoricism/terms/termsmainframe.html>.

•Eberle, R.. "Defining New Criticism and New Historicism. "New Criticism and New Historicism. University of Georgia. Web. 4 Nov 2012. < http://www.english.uga.edu/~eberle/2002033K/spring03/materials/new_crit_new_hist.htm>. Sotelo, Yassin. Timeline. 2012. LNH EnglishWeb. 4 Nov 2012. <http://lhnenglish.wikispaces.com/Hamlet4
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