Presentation on theme: "New Historicism II part. Ideological opposition is manifested in the text, through the way in which they organize the elements of the story. The text,"— Presentation transcript:
New Historicism II part
Ideological opposition is manifested in the text, through the way in which they organize the elements of the story. The text, in fact, reveals their ideology to us - not the other way round. I'd like to say that I agree with the position that all texts - literary, historical or otherwise - are ideological or are shaped by ideology. I think this is very clear in the Elizabeth Bishop poems and the two short novels (Heart of Darkness and The Bluest Eye). Ideology is not'irrelevant' to literary texts.
Some def given by ss ( taken from: A concise Dictionary of Literary Terms Verbal fictions: Verbal fictions lie in an authors imagination who writes down what he thinks and would like to transmit to his readers. Both narratives and fictions are works written in prose form and consist of novels. a written recount in a narrative style in this case of a historical event. Value-neutral:The elements that shape any historical events can be extracted upon the authors or historians decision and then compose a story with a plot. In fact, any element belonging to a historical text is considered as neutral while it has not been used yet for narratives purposes, whatever his literary genre may be. the history events are neutral until the writer chooses to present them from a specific approach. The story is neither retold from an objective perspective based on real facts or only based on the imagination of the writer. i.e. The author choose a piece of history, and builds a story about an event or person from his personal perspective. Historic events are not positive or negative until someone analyses them from their own point of view
Emplotted: The above term means that most historical sequences or events can be the support or basis to a narrative which will develop according to the historians decision, who will give his point of view and convey his own ideas on the events so as to provide different interpretations and meanings. the historical events can be approached, sequenced and organised as it best fits the writer.
Fiction-making: Thanks to some historical elements, the historian can start writing a story and choose whether he wants to alter the characters, names of the places or dates which the history takes place in order not to show the readers what the reality was, yet keeping some other historical and true events to give a realistic meaning. Hence, he is producing or making fiction, since not all the characters result from a true situation. the process of mixing historical and imaginary events skilfully so that by offering historical reliable information, the writer transmits wisely his approach to the situation and therefore influence the opinion of the reader. Tailoring: Tailoring means that facts must fit the story form, namely that despite a fiction or a narrative created by the historian, facts that are told should be coherent as a whole so that the story can be meaningful too. adapting the recount of the facts to a particular narrative narrative form.
STEPHEN GREENBLATT (b. 1943). From Introduction to The Power of Forms in the English Renaissance (1988). Clearly it is not the text alone […] that bears the full significance of Shakespeares play, […] [but] rather the storys full situation – the genre it is thought to embody, the circumstances of its performance, the imaginings of its audience – that governs its shifting meanings
STEPHEN GREENBLAT The Power of Forms in the English Renaissance Leading proponent of New Historicism, a key figure in the shift from literary to cultural poetics and from textual to contextual interpretation in the U.S. Inspired by Foucault the New Historicists see the literary work as a vessel tossed in a social sea of competing interests, antagonistic values, and contradictions. For Greenblatt, literary works are fields of force, places of dissensions and shifting interests, occasions for the jostling (empuje) of orthodox and subversive impulses. New Historicism begins to be political by denying that any social world is stable and that artworks are separated from the power struggles constituting social reality.
The literary work is a player in the competition among various groups to gain their ends, a competition that takes place on many levels. New Historicism accepts Foucaults insistence that power operates through channels; not just direct coercion and governmental action but also, daily routines and language. Because discourse organizes perception of the world by its categorical groupings and because symbols bind social agents emotionally to institutions and practices, conflicts over images resonate throughout the social order.
New Historicism pays attention to discursive disputes in particular texts and also examines how particular texts are addressed to other texts, other discursive orders, in the wider culture. A cultural poetics tries to identify the key images –and the values, beliefs, practices, and social structures that those images point toward- of a particular cultural moment.
The New Historicist does not consider the cultural moment unified, with the literary text reflecting that unity. The text is a dynamic interweaving of multiple strands from a culture that is an unstable field of contending forces (en pugna). Any given text is an attempted intervention in the ongoing struggle to influence or even dominate the cultural field
The critics own work intervenes in his or her own present, responding to and striving to alter contemporary configurations of power. The New Historicists, following Foucault, construct narratives in which dispersed and disputed power becomes more insidious (malicioso o dañino con apariencias inofensivas) and dominance grows more dominant. They want to emphasize historys contingencies, its fluidity in any given moment, but they also emphasize how history reveals the growth of forms of power that continuously affect subjects lives.
Historians have objected that these literary critics read a few nonliterary texts, juxtapose them with plays or novels, and think they are doing history. But New Historicism is part of a change in literary studies –and in history as well. Instead of asking what a particular text means in and of itself, New Historicists ask what it means within the social relations in which it is embedded.
Rather than focusing on the masterpiece or on the author of masterpieces, they attempt to understand the lived social reality of the era being studied. Blurred distinction between literature and history. New Historicists pay attention to how particular texts are addressed to other texts in the wider culture.
They try to identify the key images- and values, beliefs, practices and social structures that those images point to-of a particular cultural moment. By the late 1990s literary critics seldom explicitly identified themselves as New Historicists, but the emphasis on context over text still prevailed in literary studies.
As a conclusion we could say NH is… Against monological historicism, concerned with a single political vision identical to that held by the entire population. Literature conceived as a mirror of the period beliefs from a safe distance.
Greenblatt (exercises) Read the highlighted lines in paragraph 2. What do you think Greenblatt means here? Greenblatt argues that the meanings (which are not fixed but shifting ) of Shakespeares play, Richard II, are not determined solely by the text of the story but its full situation, which includes its genre, the conditions of when it was performed, the audience s thoughts and expectations, among others. (Note: all of these contemporaneous elements – play, accounts of its performance, what the audience thought – have survived in the shape of one text or another, whether written, pictorial, musical or material).
In paragraph 4, Greenblatt mentions a discrepancy. Explain in your own words what discrepancy you think he is referring to. The critic Dover Wilson interpreted Richard II as expressing loyalty to the monarchy and portrays (=representa) the overthrow of the legitimate king as sacrilegious. However, Queen Elizabeth Is anxiety over the plays possible message led her to identify with the deposed king of Shakespeares play and to claim that it had been performed 40tie times in open streets. It is this interpretative discrepancy Greenblatt notes and wishes to analyze.
In paragraph 5, look for and identify words and phrases associated with what Greenblatt calls mainstream literary history (what Barry refers to as old historicism). dominant historical scholarship earlier historicism monological a single political vision identical [with] the entire literate class internally coherent and consistent the status of historical fact a stable point of reference
What, according to Greenblatt, does the new historicism do? (Suggestion: base your answer on paragraph 6 [The new historicism erodes…] of the extract). According to Greenblatt, the new historicism undermines fixity in critical and literary practice. New historicism is self-interrogating and interrogates others; it might encourage an investigation into the belief system underpinning Richard II and also that of Dover Wilsons interpretation of Richard II.
Self-assessment exercises. Barry 1. New historicists study literary and non-literary texts in conjunction, interpreting the former through the latter. 2. This is an attempt to subvert standard critical interpretations of familiar texts and approach the text as if for the first time. 3. New historicists look for manifestations in text and co-text of State power, patriarchy, colonization and how they are perpetuated. 4. New historicists insist on the textualization of reality (from Derrida) and the premise that society is governed by the collusion between discourse and power (from Michel Foucault).
Self-assessment Exercises: Bishop between Bishops prose extract (co-text) and the poem (text). Remember, a connection can be a similarity or a contrast, a parallel or a difference, a presence or an absence. 1. Inter-connections: Text Co-text Co-text Text no title title prose (seeming) prose paragraphs (seeming) paragraphs
Co-text vs Text (poem) standard format vs non-standard (two c) single typography vs double typography (two typefaces) lone Vietnamese on a bicycle vs unicyclist-courier Vietnam is identified vs no country identified historical period inferred no historical period inferred America criticized vs America not mentioned
explicitly anti-war vs anti-war sentiment implied 1st person narrator vs 1st person speaker
The co-text represents a specific place at a specific moment – Saigon, during Vietnam War, being bombed by the US Air Force – while the speaker in the text avoids naming either the place or the time being alluded to. How does knowing where we are, on the one hand, and not knowing where we are, on the other, affect our reading? Text: even though there are no explicit references to a particular time, place or characters, Bishop s poem does allow us to locate ourselves: the title – 12 OClock News – invites us to situate ourselves in front of the TV or the radio listening to a news bulletin. This is not an event that could take place, for instance, in the desert or the Arctic Circle or in a swimming pool or an operating theatre (=sala de cirujía). Bishop connects us to 20th century technology and casts the reader as the recipient/consumer of a particular product, probably from within his/her own home: the news bulletin and, within that, the war dispatch. This is a very familiar experience – think of news coverage of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, etc. In fact, the absence of a specific context makes it easier for the reader to relate the poem to other wars, places and peoples.
Co-text: we know exactly where we and the narrator are located – South Vietnam during the US air offensive in the Vietnam War. The narrator speaks from the Western side even though she does express some sympathy for the Vietnamese and criticizes American intervention. As readers, we receive this passage as news reportage and/or a chronicle of real events. We are more likely to limit ourselves to the time and place of what is being represented, rather than extend our reading to include conflicts in other places or times.
The co-text encourages us to fix or stabilize meaning in the text. Reading the two together also draws attention to their differences, contrasts and similarities. While the themes may be very similar (anti- imperialist, anti-war, sympathy for the victims of war), we are reminded how these themes (indeed, any themes) can be expressed through different forms and how, in turn, form shapes our reading.
Form is central to how a text (any text) produces meaning and how the reader receives that same text (see answer to Q3). The fact that the Bishop poem has the title it has and looks like a news bulletin, therefore, encourages us to read it as such. However, there are aspects which distance the text from this particular genre: the words in the margin, for instance. One effect of this device is to draw attention to the language and shape of the text, something that poetry tends to do (see the exercises for the Dylan Thomas poem).
Intra-connections: If we read just the words in the left-hand margin we get the impression of a situation or activity connected to writing in the days before computer technology. Many of the objects of course are still part of our 21st century reality: the lamp, the manuscripts, the envelopes and ashtray. In fact, even the typewriter, ink-bottle and eraser are still preferred by some writers. Nevertheless, the absence of digital technology already affects how we read this poem.
The connections are established mainly through visual parallels, but not only: There seem to be very deliberate connections between the two texts in this poem. gooseneck lamp: the lamp connects to the full moon and the light shed by both. The moon sheds little or,poor light, suggesting the lamp also gives off dim illumination. In English, the expression to shed light has a literal and a figurative sense, meaning both to shed physical light in darkened surroundings and also to clarify or illuminate a situation or mystery.
visual parallels typewriter: the typewriter rows of keys anticipate the image of those small, peculiarly shaped terraces, connecting a contemporary (and urban?) object to a timeless (What endless labor…) and rural activity.
pile of manuscripts.: if we assume manuscripts to be white in colour, then this would connect to the image of the white, calcareous, and shaly soil. The last adjective – shaly – refers to soft finely stratified rock […] consisting of consolidated mud or clay (Concise Oxford Dictionary) and also reinforces the image of sheets of paper piled on top of one another.
typed sheets: again, this reaches out to the image of a large rectangular field […]. It is dark-speckled, which recalls a sheet of paper covered in typed words resembling dark-speckled marks. envelopes: the visual parallel is somewhat less obvious here, though references to communications, industrialization and sign-boards suggest a continued attempt to connect the practice of written communication to the environment (=entorno) or world represented in the right-hand text. (Suggestion: you may not agree with this reading and see no connection at all between the left-hand words and right-hand envelopes. If this is your position, ask yourself, what effect does this sudden break in connection between words and text produce? how should we interpret it?).
ink-bottle: the mysterious, oddly shaped, black structure for me echoes the shape of the ink- bottle I imagine the speaker to have on his/her desk or at least within his/her field of vision as h/she writes the 12 o clock news. The blackness of the ink picks up the little light and poor visibility of the first paragraph. Here we are told that the moonlight is feeble. The absence of proper illumination seems to suggest an inability to understand or relate to the events the speaker is describing.
typewriter eraser: again, the imagistic or visual connections here are elusive (difficult to reach). On the other hand, the presence of an eraser seems to anticipate the erasure of the life of the unicyclist- courier. Note how indirectly the death of the cyclist is conveyed: he appears to be – rather, to have been – a unicyclist courier, who may have met his end […]. Alive, he would have been…. Death is expressed through the past, modal and conditional forms of the verb, rather than the simple present or a declarative statement
ashtray: perhaps the most striking equivalence between left- and right- hand texts. The nest of soldiers lying heaped together and in hideously contorted positions, all dead vividly mirrors the image of an ashtray full of half-smoked cigarettes or cigarette butts. Is the speaker saying that the dead war victims have no more significance for the west than cigarettes in an ashtray? Or is there another (implicit) attempt to implicate the west in the horrors of the war that it is perpetrating on the elusive natives? Note that the poem ends here with an unequivocal image of death, a theme which has only been suggested in previous paragraphs. Its almost as if 12 O Clock News has been building up to this final moment to give us the message: war kills. (Suggestion: look for other examples suggesting death, e.g. the moon in the first paragraph could be dead; the reference to the landslide (=corrimiento de tierra) in the second paragraph which appears to have produced no casualties; or the reference to the cemetery in the third paragraph).
This poem seems to be about armed aggression or war and its human consequences. The shape of the poem itself suggests division and conflict: the items listed on the left are western, industrialized, modern, while the scenes and events described on the right are non-western, rural, backward (according to the speaker). However, on closer reading this binary opposition is subverted by the seeming connections between the two halves of the poem indicated. The them/us binary suggested by the imperialist, condescending tone of the speaker (this people, the elusive natives, From our superior vantage position, etc.) and the visually separate texts, is undermined by the poems strategy to make connections between its left and right hand. Is the poem, through its integrating strategy, suggesting that art (the attempt to give shape to experience) can redeem us from atrocities such as war?
In the poem, 12 OClock News, by Bishop (Ybonne Blomer) In the poem, 12 OClock News, Bishop looks at our ability to feel alienated from the world around us, even when that world is occupied by familiar objects. Each object on the left and each description on the right works in interplay between object and image to create metaphor. The objects from her desk are metaphors for the descriptions that go with them, but the descriptions are also metaphors for the objects, for the wider world, the mass media and the writer herself. Bishop builds from the light (i.e. her gooseneck lamp) and works outward to show all the objects that are illuminated and what they are capable of being. The poem can be read as a commentary on the mass media and how it portrays foreign landscapes. During the early part of the Iraqi war the grey-green surveillance footage depicted an alien world in a way that could only heighten the viewers sense that Iraq is different and its people in the dark….
Similarly, in the first stanza of 12 OClock News, Bishop compares the dim light her reading lamp gives to the light emitted by the moon. She writes, tonight is the night of the full moon, half the world over, which has something in common with where the reader is, while the place the reporter is in is different, less illuminated. In fact, the reporter suggests that the moon where she is could be dead, reinforcing the contrast between being in the light and knowing, and being in the dark and not knowing.
In an essay on 12 OClock News, Karen Lee argues that Bishop wants to question our trust of perceived truths (Clouded Perceptions in Elizabeth Bishops 12 Oclock News). In questioning these perceptions, Bishop highlights the different ways we see the world based on how familiar we are with a place, or object. Because the reporter in the poem can not see well, her perceptions are thrown off. However, she still makes judgments: In this small, backward country, one of the most backward left in the world today.
In addition to providing a commentary on mass media, Bishop, as a writer, bestows symbolic value on the seven objects in 12 OClock News. From the mechanics of the lamp and typewriter grows the pile of manuscripts that, in turn, brings about the typed sheets and envelopes. The objects combine to create a landscape as well as a sense of writerly progression. Her typewriter is the very thing that her welfare, as the tiny principality, depends upon; her manuscripts form a landslide whose soil is of poor quality. Each typed sheet is either an airstrip or a cemetery, and envelopes, either that she sends letters to friends or that she sends her poems out into the world in, are crude forms of communication.
on-elizabeth-bishops-12-oclock-news/ on-elizabeth-bishops-12-oclock-news/ The ink bottle takes on indescribable religious power. The idea of it as a savior, to the poet, as the last hope of rescue from her grave difficulties is literal and figurative. Bishop is living off her writing, but also the act of writing is mysterious and only meaningful if illuminated in some way, if understood. The ashtray stanza shows several soldiers in a heap, all dead. They are ineffective and there is little in the way of sorrow at their deaths. Weve been set up not to empathize with the people in this foreign place. Bishop presents us with items and a description of those items that allows for more than one reading: she shows both their proximity and distance. But she is as cool and calculating in describing these objects as a reporter would be showing war. In doing so, Bishop makes not only the news media culpable but also the act of writing and thus the poet herself.