new approach. Graduate students have begun to catch on, and they had better. The year before, Wesleyan University's English department became the first in the country to advertise a job opening for a New Historicist.

There have been other "new historicisms" before this. Fredric Jameson's style of neo- Marxist historicism as practiced in The Political Unconscious (Cornell University Press, 1981) has been described as "new," but Jameson locates the grounds of his argument not in historical research but in recent Theory; he is "historicist" only in respecting the past as past while seeking to make it serve the present. Similarly, Wesley Morris's Toward a New Historicism (Princeton University Press, 1972) is unrelated to the movement which has usurped that name. A student of Roy Harvey Pearce, Morris sought an approach that would somehow balance the recognition that a literary work belongs to its own time with the confidence that literary works can nevertheless transcend their time. Perhaps needless to say, Morris' effort was not followed up by younger critics. The winds of doctrine in university English departments in the last quarter of this century have not been favourable to anyone who suggested the possibility of transcendence.

But the movement that now goes by the name of New Historicism differs from both of these. Perhaps the central statement of its themes is the introduction to Stephen Greenblatt's Renaissance Self-Fashioning. Even the title suggests the main focus of the movement. Within the ranks of the New Historicism, literature is considered to be one of the social forces that contribute to the making of individuals; it acts as a form of social control. Although most New Historicists are scrupulous to distinguish themselves from Marxist critics, the fact remains that the central tasks of the New Historicism are the same as that of Marxist criticism: first to call into question the traditional view of literature as an autonomous realm of discourse with its own problems, forms, principles, activities, and then to dissolve the literary text into the social and political context from which it issued. In fact, the New Historicism tries explicitly to solve the theoretical difficulty in Marxist criticism of relating the cultural superstructure to the material base. Its claim to newness might be put in terms of its claim to having solved that problem.

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