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298 Cultural Studies S12

Page history last edited by Mike Rebeschi 8 years, 3 months ago

Assigned Readings:

"Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold, NP 104

"Dover Bitch" by Anthony Hecht, NP 400

"Cultural Studies: New Historicism" Handout


Key Concepts:

The intent of a cultural study is to connect historical, social, and economic knowledge surrounding a topic, even a topic that does not seem very literary. Because any context is virtually unending, the critic never knows enough. New Historicism, which emerged in the late 1970s to early 1980s, is still changing and developing, drawing on sociology, psychology and economics, the scope of study is never limited to one field. The most important difference in New Historicism is the movement away from the belief that a text is the product of the time period in which is was written. Instead, New Historicists will deny that anyone can ever know exactly what happened at a given time and place. All that can be perceived is what has been handed down in artifacts and stories, making history a narration, not a pure unadulterated set of precise observations. So, in order to make sense of this theory, new historicist work in two directions. to understand a text by examining its cultural context - the anxieties, issues, struggles, and politics, etc, of the era in which it was created. They will also try to understand the culture based on the literature. Any work, whether it be political or ideological, affects the culture that reads it, and is in turn affected by that culture. The two are intrinsically linked, making it impossible to read a text in isolation.


The time of the texts:

1851 - At this point in European history, the Romantic movement had just swept the area. Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement which was caused in part by the Industrial Revolution. It was a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction against the rationalization of nature. Romanticism validated strong emotion as an authentic source of the aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on even negative emotions, such as horror and terror, and awe - especially when confronting the sublimity of untamed nature and its picturesque qualities. It marked a period in time when literature was used as a form of escape from modern realities. 



1968 -  The 1960s term also refers to an era more often called The Sixties, denoting the complex of inter-related cultural and political trends across the globe. This "cultural decade" is more loosely defined than the actual decade, beginning around 1963 and ending around 1974. In the United States, "the Sixties", as they are known in popular culture, is a term used by historians, journalists, and other objective academics; in some cases nostalgically to describe the counterculture and social revolution near the end of the decade; and pejoratively to describe the era as one of irresponsible excess and flamboyance. The decade was also labeled the "Swinging Sixties" because of the fall or relaxation of some social taboos especially relating to sexism and racism that occurred during this time.





Key Terms:

culture: the sum of beliefs, institutions, arts, and behaviors of a particular people or time

discourses: a system of representation and meaning linked to a specific discipline, institution, practice or pattern of belief and that limits what can be expressed and understood.

carnival: a culture behind the mainstream one, a marginalized culture that subverts sanctioned hierarchies by turning the priviledged symbols upside down or by putting them into common experience.

Ideology: beliefs, values, patterns of feelings, habits of thought through which we percieve, explain and justify reality.

episteme: the rules and constraints outside which individuals cannot think or speak without running the risk of being excluded or silenced.

cultural materialism: aruges that the dominant class dictates what forms of art are to be considered superior at the expense of the working class culture, which, misunderstood and undervalued, is deemed to be inferior

               -cultural materialists: work to erase any distinction between "high" and

"low" forms of art, arguing that any text can be analyzed to reveal how it shapes a people's experience.



Critical Questions:

1. Why would readers at this time (1968) be attracted to the poem?

2. How does the description of the subject's daydream (lines 9-11) establish the shift in sexuality?

3. How did Anthony Hecht reference a classic work while still remaining true to his decade?

4. Why does the tense shift (line 24) from past to present?

5. What does the phrase "running to fat" (28) mean?

6. What is the speaker's tone towards the original text? His opinion of the girl mentioned?



Additional Resources:






Works Cited:

Hecht, Anthony. "Dover Bitch." The Norton Introduction to Poetry. Ed. J. Paul Hunter, Allison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. 9th ed. New York:     Norton, 2007. 400.


Arnold, Matthew. "Dover Beach."  The Norton Introduction to Poetry. Ed. J. Paul Hunter, Allison Booth and Kelly J. Mays. 9th ed. New York:     Norton, 2007. 104.


"Psychedelic '60s: Home Page." Psychedelic '60s: Home Page. University of Virginia, 1998. Web. 07 May 2012. <http://www2.lib.virginia.edu/exhibits/sixties/>


Dobie, Ann B. Theory into Practice: An Introduction to Literary Criticism. 3rd ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2012.


Comments (5)

Minerva said

at 8:47 pm on Apr 30, 2012

lizbrowner said

at 1:18 pm on May 6, 2012

so, we should probably get started? has anyone else from this group been on this page yet?

Mike Rebeschi said

at 8:25 am on May 7, 2012

Yes! We should definitely get started on this- if anyone wants to meet up at the library this week to work on it, just shoot me a text: 2035067001

lizbrowner said

at 11:35 am on May 7, 2012

mike and i are meeting in the library at 4 today if either of our other group members see this/want to join

S.chaves said

at 6:17 pm on May 7, 2012

I was not able to join if possible, I would love to join you guys tomorrow at anytime. I'm free.

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