I have long been interested in possible connections between literary works and their historical and cultural contexts. Although New Criticism proved to be an efficient (and often essential) way to analyze and understand a text, I found myself wondering how Wimsatt and Beardsley espoused such a scientific and mechanized form of literary criticism. For me at least, the formalist critics left something to be desired. However, as we neared the end of the course, I was excited (and relieved) to read more about new historicism and other forms of cultural studies. In blurring the lines between literature and history, Greenblatt and others revealed the possibility of deconstructing assumptions about historical and cultural context. While keeping this in mind, a reader can more clearly understand the ways in which historical and cultural circumstances can affect what is written in a “fictional” sense, and vice versa.
While reading “Learning How to Curse,” I was reminded of the writings of Michel Foucault. In a general sense, Foucault often urges his reader to challenge assumptions about the nature of various ideologies, and to examine the ways in which ideologies function. Similar to Foucault’s ideas, New Historicism relies upon the notion that a purposefully interdisciplinary approach to literature, social sciences, and history can lead to some of the most interesting, and most startling discoveries.
In reading these texts, in addition to those suggesting a similarly deconstructivist approach, I came to realize my own interest in the way that literature can function in revealing unexpected ideologies and significant meaning in various genres and media of written work. I am excited to continue literary studies while examining and analyzing the context of the time during which the work was created.