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Ways of Conceiving of the Relationship Between History and Literature

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Ways of Conceiving of the Relationship Between History and Literature The Old Extrinsic View ( Old Historicism) History is objective ; i.e., history ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Ways of Conceiving of the Relationship Between History and Literature


1
Ways of Conceiving of the Relationship Between
History and Literature
  • The Old Extrinsic View (Old Historicism)
  • History is objective i.e., history really
    happened and the truth of the past is objectively
    recoverable.
  • This historical truth controls, informs, governs,
    determines, conditions, limits,
    circumscribesmaybe even produceswhat a given
    literary text from a particular era can or cant
    be understood to be saying.
  • History, in other words, is the factual,
    empirical foundation or background to literature,
    the objective standard against which any
    interpretation has to be measured.
  • Literature, by contrast, is a mere reflection
    of this objective reality, a fictional
    representation or expression of the age in which
    it was written. History produces literature, and
    we read literature for the light it sheds on a
    particular historical age or the worldview of
    that age (orinsofar as biography is a sort of
    personal historya window into the minds of the
    Great Men who define the age).
  • Tillyard is representative of this kind of
    thinking We know X about Milton therefore we
    can conclude that Lycidas means Y.

2
Ways of Conceiving of the Relationship Between
History and Literature
  • Problems with/objections to the Old Extrinsic
    View (Old Historicism)
  • The main problem is that it effectively turns
    literature into a watered-down, second-hand
    version of history (or biography). If literature
    is only a reflection of a historical reality,
    an effect of a historical cause, then as
    Patterson says on 251 literature could never
    say anything that history had not authorized.
  • And sothe inevitable reaction against this
    privileging of the historical ?

3
Ways of Conceiving of the Relationship Between
History and Literature
  • The Intrinsic View (Formalism/Intrinsic Criticism
    including the New Criticism of the 1940s)
  • The study of literature should focus on things
    which are internal to the literary text, things
    that are unique and inherent to literature (tone,
    diction, figurative language, sound effects,
    imagery symbolism, character, setting, plot,
    theme, structure, pattern repetition, tension
    ambiguity, generic conventions, etc., etc.)
  • Literature is largely an enclosed,
    self-referential system an order of words
    (Northrop Frye) with no necessary correspondence
    to the world beyond the page. (And if a literary
    work seems to refer to an external reality,
    thats an illusion.)
  • A work of literature is independent of history.
    In fact, it transcends any specific historical
    moment, since its concerned with Bigger
    Thingsthe Enduring, Universal Themes of Human
    Nature and so on.

4
Ways of Conceiving of the Relationship Between
History and Literature
  • Problems with/objections to the Intrinsic View
  • In practice, its hard to discuss things like
    setting or theme without reference to a world
    outside the text.
  • But also (255-6) it mystifies and/or
    aestheticizes literature makes it difficult to
    see how both the production and consumption of
    literature are themselves social practices that
    have different meanings in different cultures (or
    even at different times and/or for different
    people in the same society).

5
Ways of Conceiving of the Relationship Between
History and Literature
  • And so history comes roaring back into literary
    study (in the form of New Historicism)
  • New historicists arent inclined to see any
    inherent, ontological difference between
    factual and fictional, literary and
    non-literary, texts both literary and historical
    (journalistic, documentary, etc.) texts are
    narratives which employ similar techniques to
    construct or represent something in words.

6
Ways of Conceiving of the Relationship Between
History and Literature
  • And so history comes roaring back into literary
    study (in the form of New Historicism)
  • New historicists arent inclined to see any
    inherent, ontological difference between
    factual and fictional, literary and
    non-literary, texts both literary and historical
    (journalistic, documentary, etc.) texts are
    narratives which employ similar techniques to
    construct or represent something in words.
  • History, therefore, isnt a set of objective
    facts that grounds literature, or that
    literature reflects (and must therefore
    measure up to in some way) . . .

7
Ways of Conceiving of the Relationship Between
History and Literature
  • And so history comes roaring back into literary
    study (in the form of New Historicism)
  • New historicists arent inclined to see any
    inherent, ontological difference between
    factual and fictional, literary and
    non-literary, texts both literary and historical
    (journalistic, documentary, etc.) texts are
    narratives which employ similar techniques to
    construct or represent something in words.
  • History, therefore, isnt a set of objective
    facts that grounds literature, or that
    literature reflects (and must therefore
    measure up to in some way) . . . The
    relationship between literary text and
    social/historical context is not one of
    foreground background or mirror and reality
    its more like a web in which many different
    kinds of textsmedia texts, pop culture texts,
    high-culture texts, documentary texts, everyday
    social practicesinfluence and interact with each
    other to create a larger social formation
    (Patterson 260), a discourse.

8
Ways of Conceiving of the Relationship Between
History and Literature
  • And so history comes roaring back into literary
    study (in the form of New Historicism)
  • New historicists arent inclined to see any
    inherent, ontological difference between
    factual and fictional, literary and
    non-literary, texts both literary and historical
    (journalistic, documentary, etc.) texts are
    narratives which employ similar techniques to
    construct or represent something in words.
  • History, therefore, isnt a set of objective
    facts that grounds literature, or that
    literature reflects (and must therefore
    measure up to in some way) . . . The
    relationship between literary text and
    social/historical context is not one of
    foreground background or mirror and reality
    its more like a web in which many different
    kinds of textsmedia texts, pop culture texts,
    high-culture texts, documentary texts, everyday
    social practicesinfluence and interact with each
    other to create a larger social formation
    (Patterson 260), a discourse.
  • A fictional text like Catcher isnt a product
    of postwar America, and it doesnt just reflect
    certain themes of mid-century American life
    rather, it plays an active part in composing
    those themes. Literary production is itself a
    form of social practice texts do not merely
    reflect social reality but create it.
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