New historicism


New historicism is an approach to literary critique and literary philosophy that takes the idea that an artwork cannot be treated as an individual piece of art or text but rather as a consequence of the period, location and historical circumstances of its composition. It has origins in a response to the "Modern Critique" of formal literary review, which has been shown to neglect by a new generation of skilled critics the greater social and political impact of literary texts generated. In the 1980s, the work of the critic Stephen Greenblatt developed a new history which was widely influenced in and beyond the 1990s.


New historicism has tried, as a restorative to the historical and apolitical nature of many post structuralisms, to bring the concept of history back into literary studies. But when adopting the Foucault's notion of an epistemic break between epochs and civilizations that makes it impossible to understand the text in such terms that it was created, New Historicism was criticized for reducing the flow of literature as an art work and making it a historical artifact.

Old Historicism

Historicism states that all knowledge and cognition are conditioned historically. It is often commonly used from a historical viewpoint in different disciplines. In Europe, particularly in Germany, historicism appeared; it called into question the progressive vision of history that regarded history as a sequential, uniform operation, working according to universal rules, which was commonly retained by the thinkers of the age of the Enlightenment.

Historicism has frequently questioned the idea of reality and the notion of reason in modernity. Modern thinkers believed that rationality as a fundamental faculty of the mind, which can comprehend objective and unmoving reality, is free of interpretation. The concept of logic and reality was criticized by Historicism for the historic sense of knowledge and reason; Historicism is an explicit expression of knowledge historicality.

Vico criticized the notion that truth goes beyond history and that it is conditioned by the history of humanity. Herder dismissed core principles of the Light, such as the idea of moral rationality and the confidence in the advancement of justification in human experience. These theories of the Enlightenment are based on the presupposition that all individuals and civilizations have only one reason and that human existence is a linear evolution whose process of growth is the same for all.

Herder, a popular romantic supporter, claimed that any historical and cultural era has a specific value structure, and he has seen history as the composite of different and unique narratives. Herder emphasized the significance of recognizing each historical period's particular meaning in order to view the history authentically.

Significant nineteenth century historical thinkers reacted to the development of Hegelianism as an idealistic and speculative final and most advanced understanding of history, resulting in the Enlightenment perception of history as history of reason. They proposed that each area and community had different and special features that were irreducibly abstract to abstract standardized trends centered on abstract metaphysical conjecture. For example, in comparison to Hegel’s speculative method, Ranke treated history focused on critical study of primary text and references.

Dilthey’s theory of Historicism

The effort to articulate historicism conceptually in theory was created by Wilhelm Dilthey. The definition of justification as free of inference, impartial or historical faculty has been disputed by Dilthey. This concept of rationality can be traced in the light's ideals. The direct goal of Dilthey was Kantian rationalism, which took the lead after Hegelian speculation crashed.

Dilthey sought to carry out the challenge of formulating a criticism of historical reason, in opposition to Kant’s opponents of simplicity of reason, in the unfinished work The Framework of the Historical Universe of Human Sciences.

Dilthey claimed that history events are unique and unrepeatable. One must abandon the current sense of perception to interpret it from the historical context of this case in order to appreciate the case. Hermeneutic is the practise of understanding incidents of human life in historical ways. For Dilthey, perception is fundamentally interpretive and rationality is contextualised and influenced socially and historically.

New Historicism

Modern Historicism differs from the old Historicism in large part not depending on the approach but rather on developments in historical methodology, the emergence of the so-called Latest history.

Culture past, past images and history of the mentalities may be correlated with the revolution. Although no specific description can be given, the modern history is better interpreted counter to older forms of writing history, resisting their fixation on politics and "great men," insistence on the composition of historic facts, reliance on administrative records as essential sources of materials, questions regarding individual motivations and intentions as explanations for political, even political causes. 


New historicism has come into conflict with some of the anti-historical tendencies of postmodernism. New historicism rejects the claim of the "post-modern" or "post-historical" phase of society and allegedly ignited the "cultivation wars" in the 1980s.

The main points of this argument are that, unlike post-modernism, new historicism recognizes that virtually any historical views, accounts and facts they are using have prejudices derived from this view. As Carl Rapp points out, the modern historians also claim they are the only ones able to accept that all intelligence, even their own, has been corrupted.


Some complaints that appear to reduce literature to a footnote in history are sometimes made about New Historicism. It was also said that the ancient details of the analysis of literature were not taken into consideration. New historicism merely states historical problems in which literature may link without clarifying why it does so, since literature and its mechanisms do not have a detailed know-how.

The approach has a lot to do with Michel Foucault’s practicehistoricism, whose technique is focused both on his philosophy and his method for analyzing a vast variety of documentation in order to explain the epistemic of a given period. This approach is centered on a huge number of concepts. New Historicism uses Foucault’s work as a starting point to interpret a literary text as an expression or reaction to the power structures of society around it.


1014 Words


Mar 02, 2021


3 Pages

Looking for a professional

Order Now