New Historicism

New Historicism is a school of literary theory which first developed in the 1980s, primarily through the work of the critic and Harvard English Professor Stephen Greenblatt, and gained widespread influence in the 1990s. New Historicists aim simultaneously to understand the work through its cultural context and to understand intellectual history through literature, which follows the 1950s discipline of history of Ideas and refers to itself as a form of “Cultural Poetics.” H. Aram Veeser, introducing an anthology of essays, The New Historicism (1989), noted some key assumptions that continually reappear in New Historicist discourse; they were: that every human action is actually the effect of 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” are equally valuable; that no discourse, imaginative, scientific, or archival, gives access to unchanging truths, nor expresses inalterable human nature; that a critical method and a language adequate to describe culture under capitalism participate in the economy they describe.