Historicizing literature anew
Green and LeBihan describes how Stephen Greenblatt and other New Historicists (Greenblatt’s term) looked at history “not in terms of discrete episodes forming an homogeneous whole, but as fractured, subjective, and above all textual” [italics provided] (112).
Green and LeBihan says that with this realization of the textuality of history, “[literature] and history are therefore no longer in binary opposition” (112).
Green and LeBihan, quoting H. Aram Veeser (1989), enumerates five New Historicist assumptions (115-16):
- that every expressive act is embedded in a network of material practices
- that every act of unmasking, critique, and opposition uses the tools it condemns and risks falling prey to the practice it exposes
- that literary and non-literary texts circulate inseparably
- that no discourse, imaginative or archival, gives access to unchanging truths nor expresses inalterable human nature
- that a critical method and language adequate to describe culture under capitalism participate in the economy they describe
With such assumptions, Green and LeBihan point out the methodological similarities between the “thick description” method of anthropologist Clifford Geertz and the critiques often done by literary critics (119-24).