New historicist essay

New historicism is primarily concerned with the ways in which social power relations are embedded in language. Recognizing the textuality of history, critics agree that a range of texts, including literature, may generate subversive insights. However, they maintain that any potential for real subversion will be undercut and contained by the text itself. This significant principle of new historicist thinking emphasizes that ultimately there is no space in literature for effective resistance to authoritative social power. All texts will eventually contain and undermine their potential for subversion by submitting to and reinforcing the dominant social thinking of the day. Such customary pessimism for new historicist thinking has been the target of criticism, but practitioners nevertheless maintain that texts may point towards subversion, but they will surrender to the practice they expose. A new historicist approach to literary analysis will therefore illustrate the ways in which ideological practices always short-circuit any real challenge to prevailing power relations in society.

MacIntyre’s use of the term “modern liberal individualism” in philosophy is not equivalent to “liberalism” in contemporary politics. Some readers interpreted MacIntyre’s rejection of “modern liberal individualism” to mean that he is a political conservative ( AV , 3 rd ed., p. xv), but MacIntyre uses “modern liberal individualism” to name a much broader category that includes both liberals and conservatives in contemporary American political parlance, as well as some Marxists and anarchists (See ASIA , pp. 280-284). Conservatism, liberalism, Marxism, and anarchism all present the autonomous individual as the unit of civil society (see “ The Theses on Feuerbach : A Road Not Taken.”); none of these political theories can provide a well-developed conception of the common good; and none of them can adequately explain or justify any shared pursuit of any common good.

Beloved is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel written by Toni Morrison and published in 1987. The story follows Sethe as she attempts to make peace with her present (for her, post Civil War America) and her past as a former slave and the atrocities she suffered at the hands of the "benevolent" Gardner family. Information given to the readers from different perspectives, multiple characters, and various time periods allows her audience to piece together the history of the family, their lives, as well as provide insight into slavery and the aftermath as a whole. The characters feel as though they discover more and more as the novel passes in time, just as history unfolds. Critically this novel is recognized as one of the greatest works on the subject of slavery's impact on the slaves, the owners, the past, and America's future. In this analysis of Beloved, the characteristics of new historicism will be used to evaluate this literary piece.
New Historicism is a literary critique theory founded primarily by Stephen Greenblatt in the early 1980s. What began as a critique by Greenblatt of Shakespearean works became an improved theory of criticism. The basis of this theory is the opposite of historicism; new historicism critiques a work not only during the time period in which it takes place but also within the context of the time period it was written. In other words, there is no objectivity. When applying new historicism to Beloved, there are certain characteristics that may be applied, including: whether or not there is a sense of mourning, healing, and redemption in the story, if the events that occur in the novel reflect the times in which the author lived, if the meanings of words and the context have changed or remained s...


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Changizi, Parisa, and Parvin Ghasemi. "A Foucauldian Reading of Toni Morrison’s Beloved." Journal of Research in Peace, Gender and Development (2012): 001-05. Print.

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Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. 5th ed. New York: Harper Perennial, 1994. 215-17. Print.

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New historicist essay

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