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Christianity, Reform and Freedom in Method

Powerful Essays
I feel like I need to begin my methodological introduction with graffiti. Graffiti that says: "Bercovitch Bites," or "Foster Rules," or even "Stop Elitist Historicists." Nothing particularly original -- just a few key phrases that capture the frustration I have felt while researching New Historicism and more particularly, its application to texts. Somehow, graffiti -- the unscholarly domain of angry teenagers armed with cans of spray paint -- echoes my reaction to the scholars in this field who seem to be writing only for other scholars, thus excluding those of us who, fascinated with the ideas expressed, would like to learn about the method and topic by simply picking up a book or article. As I understand it, the whole idea of New Historicist criticism is to enlighten the readers of a text further about that text. Enlighten, educate, teach or inform -- however you put it -- this kind of criticism should be inclusive, not exclusive. The heavy use of jargon and obscure references by these critics serves as a "locked gate" that only allows those with the proper credentials a "key" to get in.

Within the context of the text I have chosen (A Narrative of the Life and Travels of Mrs. Nancy Prince, by Nancy Prince) this elitist approach seems incongruous simply because of the facts surrounding its author and publication. This is a text written by a primarily self-educated woman who felt very strongly about using her knowledge and abilities in a "hands-on" manner to help and "enlighten" others. Ultimately, she wrote about her experiences to put food on her table, not to impress her colleagues. In any case, for the purposes of this paper, I will attempt to explain what I think New Historicism is and how I intend to use the theories beh...

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...iticism. Online. 5 April, 1998. Available: http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/hopkins_guide_to_literary_theory/entries/new_historicism.html

Cogan, Frances. All-American Girl: The Ideal of Real Womanhood in Mid-Nineteenth Century America. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1989.

Epstein, Leslie. The Politics of Domesticity: Women, Evangelism and Temperance in Nineteenth Century America. Middletown: Wesleyan UP, 1981.

Howe, Daniel. "The Evangelical Movement and Political Culture in the North during the Second Party System." The Journal of American History 77 (March 1991): 1216-1239.

Newton, Judith. "History as Usual? Feminism and the 'New Historicism.'" The New Historicism. Ed. H. Aram Veeser. New York: Routledge, 1989. 152.

Prince, Nancy. A Black Woman's Odyssey through Russia and Jamaica: The Narrative of Nancy Prince. New York: Markus Wiener Publishing, 1990.
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