Key Principles of New Historicism

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Composition and Literature
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History is not reducible to the activities of a
few prominent individuals
History is a story that is constructed out of an
immense amount of possible data and the
interpretations of that data
History we encounter is based upon the belief
system of the person who composed that
particular historical account
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The mundane activities and conditions of
daily life can tell us much about the belief
systems of a time period
A people can hardly be extrapolated from the
activities of the political or cultural system of
which they are a part
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Literary and other cultural texts are
connected in complex ways to the time
period in which they were created. Systems of
social power are both reflected in and
reinforced by such texts
Literature can’t be “timeless”
Look for the ways in which the text could only
been have written at the time in which it was
written
Examine the systems of power in place and
how they interact with your text
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“Text” can have multiple meanings
Thing about the different “texts” that are at
your disposal as a researcher and critic
Expand your discussion to address
costuming, imagery, body language,
advertising, film, etc.
How do other texts of the time period reflect
the social interests that your text may be
addressing?
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Readings of texts provide insight into the
complexity of human thought and experience
It would be arrogant or naïve to believe that
complexity can be fully covered in a single
response
New Historicism and cultural analysis never
suggests “conclusive” ideas; rather, it offers
multiple readings and possibilities
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