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Thinking Through PoetryField Reports on Romantic Lyric$
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Marjorie Levinson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198810315

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198810315.001.0001

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The New Historicism

The New Historicism

Back to the Future1

(p.33) 2 The New Historicism
Thinking Through Poetry

Marjorie Levinson

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 studies the relationship between historicism and Romanticism. It locates the two between Enlightenment materialism, on one side, and Marxian historical and dialectical materialism, on the other. In so doing, it isolates a paradox of materialism—namely, its production of the very concepts that undo it. These include the ideas of knowing as dissociated conceptual activity, and consciousness as absolute negativity. Romanticism and historicism, it is argued, represent solutions to a common problem—a claim defended through a reading of Wordsworth’s sonnet “The world is too much with us.” In considering how we position ourselves in relation to past literature, the chapter evaluates the choices between contemplation and empathy, knowledge and power, blame and defense. As such, it represents the first move in a self-critical turn on the new historicist method that had shaped the author’s—and part of the field’s—work in the previous decade.

Keywords:   new historicism, materialism, William Wordsworth, Enlightenment, Marxism, romanticism, lyric poetry, literary theory

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