IDEOLOGY AND HISTORY
As a consequence of the reawakened interest in history as a mode of entrance into literary interpretation, Survey reviewers are beginning to have friendly demarcation disputes about what is 'Criticism' and what is 'Life and Times'. More and more commentators are coming to fashion criticism out of a close contextualization of Shakespeare's works. Having looked last year at new historicism as a movement, I want this time to examine more directly one of its underpinning concepts, ideology, a subject which was one of the themes at the Twenty-Third International Shakespeare Conference in 1988.
For those who are willing to jump in at the deep end, Shakespeare Reproduced: The Text in History and Ideology, edited by Jean E. Howard and Marion F. O'Connor (New York and London: Methuen, 1987), is the place to start. In their helpful Introduction, the editors explain how an ideological historicism differs from traditional 'historical background' studies:
One is interested not just in 'what the Elizabethans thought and did' as reflected in their literature, but in the uses of ideas and practices in producing a particular social order and subjects to work within it and in enabling, as well, points of resistance to dominant ideologies.
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