New Historical Criticism, takes different texts written today by previous authors and assumes that each work is formed from a historical moment. New Historical Criticism also takes literature and places it on the same level as history; both literature and history can be read as the same text. Literature and History are equally important as well.
Taking into account history in a literary text, the New Historical Criticism would view Mrs. Dalloway written by Virginia Woolf as an example. In Mrs. Dalloway ,Woolf reveals a main character named Septimus. Septimus, in the text, is a war hero who suffers from shell-shock after witnessing the death of his friend Evans. Septimus’ humiliation of seeing Evans causes the people around him to classify him as a mentally ill person,. Septimus’s doctors feel that he’s incapable of caring for himself. When discussing problems about Septimus the doctors uses his wife Rezia as a way of speaking to him, instead of directly communicating with him. By the end of the novel,Septimus eventually committs suicide. New Historical Criticism would now connect Septimus’ mental illness with the time period in which this took place, World War I. Septimus’ conditions exemplify the many other soldiers in the war. Many solderers witnessed death of their fellow men and therefore became traumatized. New Historical Criticisms would then link Septimus’ Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Virginia Woolf herself; for during her life time, Woolf was also struggling like Septimtus. Woolf had Bipolar Disorder. Similar to Septimus, she experienced hallucinations and eventually committed suicide.
New Historical Criticism, unlike the traditional historians, doesn’t just look at what happened in the past and simply ask what the event tells us now about history, it looks at how the event that has occurred has been interpreted and what questions it might pose. Such questions include, what does the interpretation of the event tell us about the interpreters and is it just as important to know the background information as it is to understand the text.
Here are the two biographies of about Virginia Woolf in case anyone is interested to read more about her.