New perspectives in historical criticism

Project: Research

Project Details

Layman's description

Innovative historically orientated literary scholarship calls for an ability to listen to the voices of the past without anachronistic prejudice but with sensitivity and respect. Late-20th-century ideology-driven literary studies diminished receptivity to textual multifariousness, but now leading academic publishers demand vigorously expressed insights gained from intense study of the materials.

During the second half of the 20th century, literary scholars began to take an interest in other texts than the purely literary, and the canonical works were increasingly studied in relation to documents drawn from a wide variety of areas in society. The importance of the social context as ‘co-creator’ of the literary work was emphasised, and some people even talked about ‘the death of the author’.
The 21st century has shown that the author is very much alive, however, and without relinquishing the wider view of what sort of texts a scholar may study, researchers have felt free to allow biographical dimensions to enrich their analyses of literary works.
The Brontës and Education (Cambridge University Press, 2007), the main result of the first project period, reveals how strongly the Brontë sisters’ experiences as teachers affected their novels. Against the background of a wealth of contemporary documents on education, the book shows that the authors were extremely conscious of the educational debate in their time – and that the issues which dominated that debate are still very much with us today.
The second book which the project is going to result in will take a few more years. It challenges conventional notions about English poetry during the first half of the 20th century, arguing that the alleged distinction between ‘experimental’ and ‘traditional’ poets is a latter-day academic construct: ‘modernity’ happened to everybody.
Effective start/end date2005/01/012010/12/31