Nobody has a patent on ‘the past’ said the historiographer, Keith Jenkins, in his popular book Refiguring History. He was speaking of the promiscuity of history to be used by any ‘hagiographer, antiquarian, professional historian, Marxist, Annalist, Structuralist, fascist, feminist, pragmatist, neo-Rankean’ to grind their own (or their employer’s) axe.
‘New Historicists’ and their associated factions, the ‘Cultural Materialists’ and the ‘Literary Liberal Humanists’, argue that all texts are biased – because both the writer and the reader cannot extricate themselves from the ideologies in which they exist.
There are tricks by which the possible true alternatives to received wisdom may be uncovered. One is to write a ‘counter-history’ of an event (this has been adopted in Offspring). Another is to bore into the minutiae of an event (as in Defective Gods).
Or you might like
Practicing New Historicism by
Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt
University of Chicago Press 2000
Or, if you’re really keen:
Shakespeare and Contemporary Theory: New Historicism and Cultural Materialism
Bloomsbury Academic 2012
About P J Wiltshire
Winner of a prize for a paper on the influence of car advertising on modern culture – 2004
Opinion researcher, planner, designer and builder of highways, railways and traffic schemes 1963 – 2006.