The New Historicism and Gulliver’s Travels

  • Jonathan Swift
Part of the Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism book series (CSICC)


The new historicism is, first of all, new: one of the most recent developments in contemporary theory, it is still evolving. Enough of its contours have come into focus for us to realize that it exists and deserves a name, but any definition of the new historicism is bound to be somewhat fuzzy, like a partially developed photographic image. Some individual critics that we may label new historicist may also be deconstructors, or feminists, or Marxists. Some would deny that the others are even writing the new kind of historical criticism.


Literary Criticism Literary History Historical Narrative Cultural Criticism Historicist Critic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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The New Historicism: A Selected Bibliography

The New Historicism: Further Reading

  1. Graff, Gerald, and Gerald Gibbons, eds. Criticism in the University. Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1985. This volume, which contains Hirsch’s essay, “Back to History,” in the section entitled “Pedagogy and Polemics,” also includes sections devoted to the historical backgrounds of academic criticism; the influence of Marxism, feminism, and critical theory in general on the new historicism; and varieties of “cultural criticism.”Google Scholar
  2. Hirsch, E. D., Jr. “Back to History.” Graff and Gibbons 189–97.Google Scholar
  3. History and … Special issue, New Literary History 21 (1990). See especially the essays by Carolyn Porter, Rena Fraden, Clifford Geertz, and Renato Rosaldo.Google Scholar
  4. Howard, Jean. “The New Historicism in Renaissance Studies.” English Literary Renaissance 16 (1986): 13–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Lindenberger, Herbert. The History in Literature: On Value, Genre, Institutions. New York: Columbia UP, 1990.Google Scholar
  6. —. “Toward a New History in Literary Study.” Profession: Selected Articles from the Bulletins of the Association of Departments of English and the Association of the Departments of Foreign Languages. New York: MLA, 1984. 16–23.Google Scholar
  7. Liu, Alan. “The Power of Formalism: The New Historicism.” English Literary History 56 (1989): 721–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. McGann, Jerome. The Beauty of Inflections: Literary Investigations in Historical Method and Theory. Oxford: Clarendon-Oxford UP, 1985.Google Scholar
  9. —. Historical Studies and Literary Criticism. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1985. See especially the introduction and the essays in the following sections: “Historical Methods and Literary Interpretations” and “Biographical Contexts and the Critical Object.”Google Scholar
  10. Montrose, Louis Adrian. “Renaissance Literary Studies and the Subject of History.” English Literary Renaissance 16 (1986): 5–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Morris, Wesley. Toward a New Historicism. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1972.Google Scholar
  12. Thomas, Brook. “The Historical Necessity for — and Difficulties with — New Historical Analysis in Introductory Literature Courses.” College English 49 (1987): 509–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. —. The New Historicism and Other Old-Tashioned Topics. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1991.Google Scholar
  14. —. “Walter Benn Michaels and the New Historicism: Where’s the Difference?” Boundary 2 18 (1991): 118–59.Google Scholar
  15. Veeser, Harold, ed. The New Historicism. New York: Routledge, 1989.Google Scholar
  16. Wayne, Don E. “Power, Politics, and the Shakespearean Text: Recent Criticism in England and the United States.” Shakespeare Reproduced: The Text in History and Ideology. Ed. Jean Howard and Marion O’Conner. New York: Methuen, 1987. 47–67.Google Scholar

The New Historicism: Influential Examples

  1. New Historicism has taken its present form less through the elaboration of basic theoretical postulates and more through certain influential examples. The works listed represent some of the most important contributions guiding research in this area.Google Scholar
  2. American Literary History. A journal devoted to new historicist and cultural criticism; the first issue was Spring 1989. New York: Oxford UP.Google Scholar
  3. Brown, Gillian. Domestic Individualism: Imagining Self in Nineteenth-Century America. Berkeley: U of California P, 1990.Google Scholar
  4. Dollimore, Jonathan. Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries. Brighton, Eng.: Harvester, 1984.Google Scholar
  5. Dollimore, Jonathan, and Alan Sinfield, eds. Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism. Manchester, Eng.: Manchester UP, 1985. See especially the essays by Dollimore, Greenblatt, and Tennenhouse.Google Scholar
  6. Goldberg, Jonathan. James I and the Politics of Literature. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1983.Google Scholar
  7. Greenblatt, Stephen. Renaissance Self-Fashioning from More to Shakespeare. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1980. See ch. 1 and the chapter on Othello entitled “The Improvisation of Power.”Google Scholar
  8. —. Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England. Berkeley: U of California P, 1985. See especially “The Circulation of Social Energy” and “Invisible Bullets: Renaissance Authority and Its Subversion, Henry IV and Henry V.” Google Scholar
  9. Marcus, Leah. Puzzling Shakespeare: Local Reading and Its Discontents. Berkeley: U of California P, 1988.Google Scholar
  10. Michaels, Walter Benn. The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism: American Literature at the Turn of the Century. Berkeley: U of California P, 1987.Google Scholar
  11. Montrose, Louis Adrian. “ ‘Shaping Fantasies’: Figurations of Gender and Power in Elizabethan Culture.” Representations 2 (1983): 61–94. One of the most influential early new historicist essays.Google Scholar
  12. Mullaney, Steven. The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1987.Google Scholar
  13. Representations. This quarterly journal, printed by the University of California Press, regularly publishes new historicist studies and cultural criticism.Google Scholar
  14. Sinfield, Alan. Literature, Politics, and Culture in Postwar Britain. Berkeley: U of California P, 1989.Google Scholar
  15. Tennenhouse, Leonard. Power on Display: The Politics of Shakespeare’s Genres. New York and London: Methuen, 1986.Google Scholar

Foucault and His Influence

  1. As I point out in the introduction to the new historicism, some new historicists would question the “privileging” of Foucault implicit in this section heading (“Foucault and His Influence”) and the following one (“Other Writers and Works”). They might cite the greater importance of one of these other writers or point out that to cite a central influence or a definitive cause runs against the very spirit of the movement.Google Scholar
  2. Dreyfus, Hubert L. and Paul Rabinow. Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1983.Google Scholar
  3. Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge. Trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith. New York: Harper, 1972.Google Scholar
  4. —. Discipline and Punish. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Pantheon, 1978.Google Scholar
  5. —. The History of Sexuality, vol. 1. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Pantheon, 1978.Google Scholar
  6. —. Language, Counter-Memory, Practice. Ed. Donald F. Bouchard. Trans. Bouchard and Sherry Simon. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1977.Google Scholar
  7. —. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences. New York: Vintage, 1973.Google Scholar
  8. —. Politics, Philosophy, Culture. Ed. Lawrence D. Kritzman. Trans. Alan Sheridan et al. New York: Routledge, 1988.Google Scholar
  9. —. Power/Knowledge. Ed. Colin Gordon. Trans. Colin Gordon et al. New York: Pantheon, 1980.Google Scholar
  10. —. Technologies of the Self Ed. Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman, and Patrick H. Hutton. Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1988.Google Scholar
  11. Sheridan, Alan, Michel Foucault: The Will to Truth. New York: Tavistock, 1980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Smart, Barry. Michel Foucault. New York: Ellis Horwood and Tavistock, 1985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Other Writers and Works of Interest to New Historicist Critics

  1. Bakhtin, M. M. The Dialogic Imagination: Tour Essays. Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson. Austin: U of Texas P, 1981. Bakhtin wrote many influential studies on subjects as varied as Dostoyevsky, Rabelais, and formalist criticism. But this book, in part due to Holquist’s helpful introduction, is probably the best place to begin reading Bakhtin.Google Scholar
  2. Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” [1936J Illuminations. Trans. Harry Zohn. New York: Schocken, 1969.Google Scholar
  3. Fried, Michael. Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Works of Diderot. Berkeley: U of California P, 1980.Google Scholar
  4. Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic, 1973.Google Scholar
  5. —. Negara: The Theatre State in Nineteenth-Century Bali. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1980.Google Scholar
  6. Goffman, Erving. Frame Analysis. New York: Harper, 1974.Google Scholar
  7. Jameson, Fredric. The Political Unconscious. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1981.Google Scholar
  8. Koselleck, Reinhart. Futures Past. Trans. Keith Tribe. Cambridge: MIT P, 1985.Google Scholar
  9. Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Columbia UP, 1978.Google Scholar

New Historicist Approaches to Swift and Gulliver’s Travels

  1. Bellamy, Liz. Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels.” New York: St. Martin’s, 1992.Google Scholar
  2. Brown, Laura. “Reading Race and Gender: Jonathan Swift.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 23 (1990): 424–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Deane, Seamus. “Swift and the Anglo-Irish Intellect.” Eighteenth-Century Ireland (1986): 9–22.Google Scholar
  4. Fabricant, Carole. “The Battle of the Ancients and (Post) Moderns: Rethinking Swift through Contemporary Perspectives.” The Eighteenth Century 32 (1991): 256–73.Google Scholar
  5. —. Swift’s Landscape. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1982.Google Scholar
  6. McKeon, Michael. “Parables of the younger son (I): Swift and the Containment of Desire.” The Origins of the English Novel, 1600–1740. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1987. 338–56.Google Scholar
  7. Said, Edward. “Swift as Intellectual.” The World, the Text, and the Critic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1983. 72–89.Google Scholar

Works Cited

  1. Adams, Percy G. Travel Literature and the Evolution of the Novel. Lexington: U of Kentucky P, 1983.Google Scholar
  2. Derrida, Jacques. “The Law of Genre.” Trans. Avital Ronell. On Narrative. Ed. W. J. T. Mitchell. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1981. 51–77.Google Scholar
  3. Francis, Bishop of Down and Connor. A Defence of the Antient Historians: With a Particular Application of it to the History of Ireland. Dublin, 1734.Google Scholar
  4. Glover, Thomas. “An Account of Virginia.” Philosophical Transactions: Giving Some Accompt of the Present Undertakings, Studies and Labours of the Ingenious in any Considerable Parts of the World. Vol. XI. London: Royal Society, 1676. 623ff.Google Scholar
  5. Holly, Grant. “Travel and Translation: Textuality in Gulliver’s Travels.” Criticism 21 (1979): 134–52.Google Scholar
  6. Hunter, J. Paul. Before Novels: The Cultural Contexts of Eighteenth-Century English Fiction. New York: Norton, 1990.Google Scholar
  7. Keating, Geoffrey. The General History of Ireland. Trans. Dermod O’Connor. London, 1732.Google Scholar
  8. Marx, Karl. Marx’s Grundrisse. Ed. David McLellan. London: Macmillan, 1980.Google Scholar
  9. Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The German Ideology. Ed. S. Ryazanskaya. Moscow: Progress, 1964.Google Scholar
  10. Raymond, Anthony. A Short Preliminary Discourse to the History of Ireland. London, 1725.Google Scholar
  11. Reiss, Timothy J. The Discourse of Modernism. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1982.Google Scholar
  12. Smith, Frederik N., ed. The Genres of “Gulliver’s Travels.” Newark: U of Delaware P, 1990.Google Scholar
  13. Swift, Jonathan. The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift. 5 vols. Ed. Harold Williams. Oxford: Clarendon, 1963–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. —. The Poems of Jonathan Swift. 3 vols. Ed. Harold Williams. Oxford: Clarendon, 1958.Google Scholar
  15. —. The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift. 14 vols. Ed. Herbert Davis et al. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1939–68.Google Scholar
  16. Todd, Dennis. “The Hairy Maid at the Harpsichord: Some Speculations on the Meaning of Gullivers Travels.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 34 (1992): 239–83.Google Scholar
  17. Todorov, Tzvetan. The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Harper, 1984.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Swift

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