[Incedentally, the New Historicism isn’t all that “new” anymore.]
I recently ran across this interesting post on the New Historicism on the Religiosity blog. Below are some of my thoughts in response:
I was trained in New Historicism as an undergraduate, as that was the dominant school of thought in my history department. However, the primary take away that was emphasized there, was that “history is everything,” i.e. a historian shouldn’t limit oneself only to evidence that has traditionally been the realm of historians. Instead, it’s perfectly alright, even imperative, that historians look at, for example, the music of an era, or its popular literature. While it’s true that the New Historicism tends to reject meta-narratives, following the general postmodern drift away from them, the corollary of that–which I take as a very positive thing–is that the New Historicism takes the particular much more seriously, and appropriately so, in my opinion. It’s interesting that he links this tendency against universalizing to conservatism… as a traditionalist conservative (but fundamentally *not* a modern tea party type conservative), that may be one reason I like it. I don’t think it negates the ability to draw conclusions about trends, etc… it just means that those theories are taken with a grain of salt, and the weight is toward viewing a particular time as largely peculiar in itself.
“The past is a foreign country.” –L. P. Hartley