New Historicism, a relatively recent concept in literary theory, advocates the study of the historical framework in which literary texts are produced. New Historicism has been criticized for a variety of reasons, but in particular, some critics argue against this tactic as a distorted form of literary analysis. According to these critics, New Historicists necessarily narrow their study to specific aspects of culture, limiting the possibility for better analysis by only concentrating on individual areas of interest. I argue, in contrast, that focusing on specific aspects of a cultural context is valuable for readers in that it makes texts produced in unfamiliar cultures more accessible and complex rather than distorted. In my reading of George Eliot’s Middlemarch, I show that a study of Victorian class systems is crucial to American students’ understanding of the ways in which Middlemarch engages with questions of social contexts.
Anna Doherty, ’05 Stillwater, MN
Majors: Spanish, English
Sponsor: Michelle Mouton