French social theorist Michel Foucault developed a notion of discourse in “The Archaeology of Knowledge” and defined it as “systems of thoughts composed of ideas, attitudes, courses of action, beliefs and practices that systematically constructs the subjects and the worlds of which they speak”. Foucault traces the role of discourse in wider social processes of legitimating and power, emphasizing the construction of current truths, how they are maintained and what power relations they carry with them. He theorizes discourse to be a medium through which power relations produce speaking subjects. For him power and knowledge are inter-related and therefore every human relationship is a struggle and negotiation of power. Discourse therefore is controlled by objects, what can be spoken of; ritual, where and how one may speak; and the privileged, who may speak. As such, an object becomes a “node within a network”. As an example, a book is not made up of individual words on a page, each of which has meaning, but rather is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences. The meaning of that book is connected to a larger, overarching web of knowledge and ideas to which it relates.
While New Historicists like Stephen Greenblatt turned to history to explain the formal structures of literary texts, Hayden White investigated the formal literary structures of history, describing a “poetics of history”. In his book “The Historical Text as a Literary Artefact”, he gives a broad reflection on the very nature of culture and on the nature of humanity itself. Reacting against the tendency of history as a discipline to seek it’s models in the sciences, White consi...
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...l Foucault”. New York, Routledge, 2008.
• Lyotard, Jean François. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Trans.Geoffrey and Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984
• Leitch, Vincent B, The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: W.W.Norton and Co.2001.
• Misra, Tilottama (ed.). The Oxford Anthology of Writings from North-East India: Poetry and Essays. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.
• Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. Can the Subaltern speak? 1985. Print.
• Va1dés, Mario J, Hutcheon, Linda. Rethinking Literary History-Comparatively. University Of Toronto, ACLS Occasional Paper No. 27
• Waugh, Patricia. Literary Theory and Criticism. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.
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