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Practicing New Historicism Hardcover – June 15, 2000

4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226279343 ISBN-10: 0226279340 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A tour de force of new literary criticism.In their introduction, Gallagher (Nobody’s Story, not reviewed) and Greenblatt (Marvelous Possessions, 1991) express the hope that “you will not be able to say what it all adds up to; if you could, we would have failed.” Alas, they succeed, and it’s doubtful that a better demonstration of the anarchy and solipsism of literary criticism today can be found. They mean to demonstrate how their varied approaches to all sorts of “texts” grow out of the rediscovery by scholars like them of the relevance of historical and cultural context to the interpretation of just about everything. But they do so in ways that their predecessors—the Victorian scholars who used history as an interpretive tool before the New Critics began to avoid it—would scarcely comprehend. Moreover, with misplaced modesty, they refuse to claim that their interpretations are any better than others—which, of course, is an imposed interpretive principle of its own. This being said, Gallagher and Greenblatt’s virtuoso readings of paintings, potatoes (yes, spuds), religious ritual, and novels—all “texts”—as well as essays on criticism and the significance of anecdotes, are likely to take their place as model examples of the qualities of the new critical school that they lead. Ironically, because everything they write suffers from what might be called the fallacy of excessive significance (i.e., finding in texts what may not be there), they reveal themselves to be as adept at close reading as the New Critics they shun. Historians (who know something about historicism) will find their teeth set on edge by the way Gallagher and Greenblatt do history. But that’s part of the fun and fascination of the book.A zesty work for those already initiated into the incestuous world of contemporary literary criticism—and for those who might like to see what all the fuss is about. (12 illustrations) -- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From the Inside Flap

"Gallagher and Greenblatt offer a brilliant introduction to new historicism. In their hands, difficult ideas become coherent and accessible."-Choice

For decades, new historicism has been a highly controversial and influential force in literary and cultural studies. In this dazzling, seminal volume, two of the discipline's most distinguished practitioners reflect on its surprisingly disparate sources and far-reaching effects.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (June 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226279340
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226279343
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,666,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Written by the two leading practitioners of New Historicism, this book is the most valuable reference up to date demonstrating the power, as well as the weaknesses, of this peculiar "method" of reading. The first three chapters on methodology advocate the immanence of (counter)historical particulars and anecdotes, which explains the authors' reluctance to endorse any transcendental abstraction of theory. Paradoxically, the historical sense as well as literary "taste" (the valuation of difference, details, ruptures) that Greenblatt and Gallagher embrace is recognisably shaped by contemporary theoretical interventions, but this debt to theory is obscured as a result of their disavowal of any "methodological directives." This obstinate disavowal, worse still, seems to join force with the conservative current of "Against Theory" in the name of history (the very motto put forward by some critics who are also related to New Historicism). The next four chapters are the "practice" part, where the authors obviously feel more at home. Their close reading and deft montage of a wide variety of discourses or artifices (drama, fiction, paintings, theological and economic debates, medical treatises...) is marvelous and dazzling, testifying how much New Historicism has widened the horizon of literary criticism. The juxtaposition of topics (the Host and the potato, the wicked sons in Hamlet and Great Expectations) also throws unexpected light on the materials. Yet the question remains: how to theorise further such montage or juxtaposition, if it is not entirely governed by whim?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MARIA DE LOURDES GARCIA on August 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book as a present for a friend of mine who was at the time writing his thesis. He once told me the book was excellent and helped him develop his ideas.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gary Matthews on May 28, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The conceptual frame work of New Historicism is not the toughest to grapple with and when done right makes excellent literary analysis. This book really lays out its pedagogical applications in a clear and tangible way. I teach Literary Criticism and now I include this book for my undergrads so that they can understand this process better.
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2 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Russell A. Rohde MD on September 21, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Practicing New Historicism", Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt - Univ. Chicago Press, ISBN: 0-226-27935-9 (PB) - 234 pages plus Index (15 pags), 8 1/2" x 5 3/8"

A prime exemplar expounding construct of "Representations" (plural) to articulate equitable confines to encapsulate, embody and validate archetypal literary receptacles for a presumptiously new discipline, a "field" of rumination, coerced by heralding exigency of a job register (yes!) for the MLA (see book explanation of abbreviation). B.E. Seedy in 1883 had already warned us of this coming calamity.

Vigilantly, the authors dissected their MS into six organic parts or entrails, two "about", and four "of" new historicism, allowing spurious ectasy, relish and anabolism of punctilious emissions, some of who/which conjure blemishes of/with disbelief, biliousness, and even "high-brow" prefunctories, albeit allowing binary synapses to "fine tune", in ephemeral sequentiality, liberating unspecified primeval "bit of fire" and fracture of DNA that possibly (but exclusively admitting a 'peewee' likelihood), of its repression (17.3 n)to aggrandized antidiluviuan RNA, primeval matter most (almost?) disgusting to the disingenuous, partly due to lack of learning, laziness and autisms.
'Litterateurs' faithful but protracted disquisitions with reference to theology (...Religioso...), agreeably wrangled with Corpus Christi, dead bodies, undead bodies, Resurrection, resucitation, "almost-dead", the Host or "altar bread", "money changers" (Jews), and also relatively antiquated pious paintings, caves with missing walls (for illuminatio...)askew 'parterre', tiles and varmint breaches to exude bodily fluids including 'reyd' blood.
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