Harmonizing to M.A.R Habib, New Historicism has become a literary term closely associated with Greenblatt, who is by and large regarded as the “ guru ” of New Historicism and, as a predictable consequence of his sudden prominence, the focal point of much unfavorable judgment. By interrupting disciplinary boundaries between the text and history, and between fiction and world, New Historicism, finally and necessarily, has now come to footings with the determination to put up its precedence in a topographic point between textualism and contextualism. In other words Karbe believes that “ text or phenomena can non be someway lacerate from history and analyzed in isolation outside of the historical procedure ” ( 401 ) .

Against the traditional position to history as Tyson says ” history is a affair of readings, non facts, and that readings ever occur within a model of societal conventions ” ( 289 ) , so the new historicist critics believes that all historical analysis is inescapably subjective. “ Historians must therefore uncover the ways in which they know they have been positioned, by their ain cultural experience, to construe history ” ( 290 ) .

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In order to cognize the regulation of literature in new historicism and the relation between the society and environment of the clip or by and large the function of history of clip and topographic point to make a literary work, it would be extremely of import to explicate some inside informations to understand this impression better. Like the other new historicist critics Tyson believes that for new historical critics, a literary text does n’t incarnate the writer ‘s purpose or exemplify the spirit of the age that produced it, as traditional literary historiographers asserted. In continues he assert that:

“ Nor are literary texts self-sufficing art objects that exceed the clip and topographic point in which they were written, as New Critics believed. Rather, literary texts are cultural artefacts that can state us something about the interplay of discourses, the web of societal significances, runing in the clip and topographic point in which the text was written. And they can make so because the literary text is itself portion of the interplay of discourses, a yarn in the dynamic web of societal significance. For new historicism, the literary text and the historical state of affairs from which it emerged are every bit of import because text ( the literary work ) and context ( the historical conditions that produced it ) are reciprocally constituent: they create each other ” ( 291-2 ) .

Like the dynamic interplay between single individuality and society, literary texts form and are shaped by their historical contexts. Michael Payne asserts ; “ new historicism is a aggregation of patterns instead than school or a method ” ( 2 ) , so that ‘s why flourishing in the 80 ‘s, New Historicism chiefly based on Gallic philosopher Michel Foucault ‘s theories offered merely such a review of history, and the dominant new historicist theories which have been used in this survey would be harmonizing to the Foucault ‘s definitions of this term. The new historicism explores the topographic point of literature in an on-going competition of power within society which has been defined widely latter by Foucault whose thoughts have strongly influenced the development of new historicism, ” power circulates in all waies, to and from all societal degrees, at all times ” ( Tyson 284 ) . The others impressions which are straight related to the new historicism are discourse, individuality and the episteme of the clip. Dr. Chung Hsiung Lai in his essay “ Limits and Beyond: Greenblatt, New Historicism and a Feminist Genealogy ” says that ” linguistic communication is bound up with inquiries of individuality because it is done linguistic communication that we speak of ourselves and interact with others ” ( 4 ) . We can advance the function of linguistic communication in a new historicist reading to discursive power or societal ego forging force which Foucault explain them subsequently to the full.

New historicist reading of the literary work harmonizing to Foucault, could be reading it harmonizing to dominant discourse and episteme of the clip of the author which could assist the research worker to grok the individuality of the originative characters of the selected plants better and besides helps to understand the purpose of the writer to make this inventive universe.

Consequently it is beyond statement that notwithstanding Greenblatt as a dominant figure in new historicism, Foucault ‘s theories as a new historicist writer have been concerned mostly with the constructs of power, cognition and discourse, These constructs aboard of the other constructs like individuality and episteme are those which could use in the text of so many literary plants in a new historicist reading of them ; but the writer that has been selected for this survey is Margaret Atwood who the impression of new historicism is extremely applicable in her novels particularly the selected 1s The Handmaid ‘s Tale and Edible Woman.

Atwood has created a arresting Orwellian vision of the close hereafter in The Handmaid ‘s Tale. This is the narrative of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new societal order who have merely one intent: to engender. In Gilead, where adult females are prohibited from keeping occupations, reading and organizing friendly relationships, Offred ‘s relentless memories of life in the “ clip before ” and will to last are Acts of the Apostless of rebellion.

Harmonizing to Dr. Chung Hsiung Lai “ Greenblatt evokes the traditional privileging of address over authorship, where intending are thought to be someway less equivocal as the talker consciously aims at cut downing the opportunities of misunderstanding ” ( 5 ) .Howells in her essay “ Margaret Atwood ‘s Dystopian Vision: The Handmaid ‘s Tale and Oryx and Crake ” asserts that “ this novel might usefully get down with this statement, for Offred ‘s assumed autobiography semen to us as a written text, and merely at the terminal do we detect that, what we have been reading was really a spoken narration which has been transcribed from the old caste types and reconstructed for publication long after the storyteller is dead ” ( 165 ) .

The 2nd novel which has been analyzed in this survey is Edible Woman, The “ comestible adult female ” of the novel ‘s rubric is, most evidently, a doll form bar cooked and consumed in the novel ‘s decision. However the rubric besides refers to the novels chief character, Marian MacAlpin, who is so bemused with nutrient that she interprets life around her in footings of nutrient ingestion, finally come to place with nutrient, and develops a serious eating upset every bit good as some romantic dealingss, love personal businesss, a broken matrimonial battle, a planned gestation and birth.

The construct of organic structure is what Atwood usage widely, during the plotline of these two novels, and Foucault in Discipline and Punishment and besides History of Sexuality usage and explicate this impression which would be extremely utile in this survey and At the Centre of the survey is a triangulated set of constructs refering the organic structure and its articulation with dealingss of power and cognition.

Barry Smart asserts that “ Genealogic analysis reveals the organic structure as an object of cognition and as a mark for the exercising of power. The organic structure is shown to be located in a political field, invested with power dealingss which render it docile and productive, and therefore politically and economically utile ” ( 69 ) Therefore the exercising of power needfully puts into circulation setups of cognition, that is creates sites where cognition is formed. Foucault himself in Discipline and Punishment asserts that “ a cognition of the organic structure that is non precisely the scientific discipline of its operation, and a command of its forces that is more than the ability to suppress them ” ( 26 ) . and besides Bartky believes that “ Both [ feminism and Foucault ] place the organic structure as the site of the power ” ( 102 ) .Thus this analysis of power has set in gesture an wholly new manner of analyzing power dealingss in society, concentrating more on opposition than simple inactive subjugation.

Foucault besides interested in the manner that power operates through different signifiers of government at peculiar historical period, ” Foucault ‘s genealogical analyses begin with an scrutiny of the character of modern power dealingss literally with the inquiry of how power is exercised and the associated issue of the relationships between power and cognition ” ( Smart p. 69 ) , and besides Mills declares that “ For Foucault, subject is a set of schemes, processs and ways of behaving which are associated with certain institutional contexts and which so permeate ways of thought and behaving in general ( 44 ) .

History is the other word, plays a dominant function in Foucault ‘s thoughts. Sara Mills explains that ” for Foucault the yesteryear is non seen as necessarily taking up to the present, a position of history which renders the past banal ; it is really strangeness of the past which makes us able to see clearly the unfamiliarity of the present ” ( 24 ) . Then in The Archaeology of Knowledge Foucault develops the term episteme that is the organic structure of cognition and the ways of cognizing which are in circulation at the peculiar minute. This survey has been circulated around those Foucault ‘s thoughts which are relevant to analysis of selected novels.


David Staines in his essay “ Margaret Atwood in Her Canadian Context ” introduces Atwood as a fecund author and a hit with literary critics, who became internationally celebrated after the popular and critical success of her 1984 novel, The Handmaid ‘s Tale. Atwood began her calling in the sixtiess, learning English and at first publication poesy, short narratives and literary unfavorable judgment. Her other novels include Surfacing ( 1972 ) , Cat ‘s Eye ( 1988 ) , Alias Grace ( 1996 ) and the 2000 Booker Prize victor, The Blind Assassin.

About the construct of history Atwood in one of her talks on her first historical novel asked a cardinal inquiry which she tries to replies in her ulterior novels, she asked “ What does the yesteryear state us? “ Then she answered, “ In and of itself, it tells us nil. We have to be listening first, before it will state a word ; and even so, listening is stating and so reciting ” ( Coomi S. Vevaina 86. ) . Coomi S. Vevaina tries to explicate how far Atwood believe the construct of history and how far she used this construct in her Novels ; he declares that “ in all her [ Atwood ‘s ] works, Atwood reveals a clearly postmodern battle with history ” ( 87 ) . He so continues that by entering some tapes “ Offred becomes an elocutionary act and her narrative ” ( 87 ) ; or better to state her narrative “ position warning against moral absolutism and atrociousness is summarily dismissed in an column aside by the male professional historian how is interested in retracing his expansive impersonal narration of a vanished states history ” ( 87 ) .

Howells in her essay sing the dystopian vision in Margaret Atwood ‘s Handmaid ‘s narrative asserts that “ this novel might usefully get down with this statement, for Offred ‘s assumed autobiography semen to us as a written text, and merely at the terminal do we detect that, what we have been reading was really a spoken narration which has been transcribe from the old caste types and reconstruct for publication Trapa bicornis after the storyteller is dead ” ( 165 ) . Therefore by aid of this narrative we recognize the episteme of the clip which Atwood attempts to knock, episteme harmonizing to Foucault is:

“ the entire set of dealingss that unite, at a given period, the dianoetic patterns that give rise to epistemic figures, scientific disciplines, and perchance formalized systemsaˆ¦The episteme is non a signifier of knowledgeaˆ¦or type of reason which, traversing the boundaries of the most varied scientific disciplines, manifests the autonomous integrity of a topic, a spirit, or a period ; it is the entirety of dealingss that can be discovered for a given period, between the scientific disciplines when 1 analyses them at the degree of dianoetic regularities ” ( 191 ) .

Furthermore Howells believes that the issue of linguistic communication and power has ever been important in building of dystopias: ” throughout the history of dystopian fiction the struggle of the text has frequently turned on the control of linguistic communication ” ( 166 ) . and it is Offred ‘s effort to “ prehend it [ the linguistic communication ] to do it hers ” ( Cixous, Medusa. 343 ) , which gives her narrative its entreaty as one adult female narrative of opposition against patriarchal dictatorship. In both Edible adult female and Handmaid ‘s Tale the attempts of diacetylmorphine for opposition is obvious because both of them revolt against something and person, ” Such rebellions about conditions, staff, patterns, and interventions have at root been oppositions against the very materiality of the prison and penalty as instruments of power, oppositions against a peculiar engineering of power exercised over both the head and organic structure of the person ” ( Smart 74 ) .

Identity is the affair which Atwood ‘s protagonist trades with and the great impact of society on them is non deniable, they are what the society likes to be, that ‘s why they are looking for a manner to resistance. As the instance in point Goldblatt in “ Reconstructing Margaret Atwood ‘s Supporters ” asserts that “ in The Edible Woman Marian ‘s organic structure is besides a battleground. Unable to get by with her impending matrimony to Peter, Marian finds herself unable to consume any nutrient that was one time alive. Repulsed by her society ‘s attitude of consumerism ” ( 275 ) , On the other manus the narrative of Offred in Gilead society is the same, Goldblatt continues “ Offred ‘s individuality and value as a kid carrier every bit good in The Handmaid ‘s Tale, are proclaimed by her apparels in her totalitarian metropolis of Gilead, aˆ¦ she is no longer owns a name ; she if Of Fred, the courtesan named for the adult male who will infuse her ” ( 276 ) .

Sing the new historicist attack harmonizing to Foucault ‘s thoughts ( particularly those which are fit to selected novels ) the research worker wants to proof that, the intent of present survey is to follow the cardinal and significant elements of new historicism in Atwood ‘s Handmaid ‘s Tale and The Edible Woman. In order to derive the intent the research worker tries to reply the undermentioned inquiries:

Upon what societal understanding do these works depends?

What other cultural events occurred environing the original production of these texts? How may these events be relevant to the text under probe?

Why might reader at a peculiar clip and topographic point find these plants obliging?

Do modern-day issues and cultural surroundings of the clip of the writer run together to make her novels?

Significance of the survey

There are two chief grounds, which make making this research of import. The first ground is the writer herself who is the modern-day prima novelist. And the 2nd 1 is that this research gives a opportunity to cognize how Foucault ideas as an attack applicable on Atwood ‘s selected novels.

What makes this research important is that up to the present clip there are so many researches and surveies on Atwood ‘s short narratives, verse form or novels but in none of the researches deal with new historical attack.

The present survey wants to demo, against so many critics who place Atwood in the list of feminist critics, there are others facets instead than feminism in Atwood ‘s plants that could be noticeable. Sawicki asserts that “ Foucault accent on the sexual organic structure as a mark and vehicle of this new signifier of power / cognition is reproduced in feminist analyses of modern signifier patriarchal control over adult females ‘s head and organic structures in the context of the outgrowth of the scientific disciplines of medical specialty, societal work, and psychological science ” ( 290 ) . From this base point which most of the supporter of Atwood ‘s Novels are adult females, to look at the overall form it is by and large accepted these heroines are in hunt of cognition in order to derive power for opposition but in contrast to the traditional definition of power, the power which Foucault negotiations about is wholly different. Mark Robson in Routledge Critical Thinkers: Stephen Greenblatt indicates that:

Cardinal to Foucault ‘s work is the impression that cognition is ever a signifier of power. Therefore progresss in psychopathology or in the intervention of unwellnesss besides lead to new ways of commanding the people who are huffy or sick. Such control tends to reenforce the power of those in a place to enforce the classs. But this does non intend that power is merely exercised from the top down. As Foucault puts it: ” power is everyplace ; non because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everyplace ” ( 55 ) .

To sum up, the present survey attempts to take a firm stand on the component of new historicism specially Foucaltian attack on Atwood ‘s selected novels which are believed that would be to the full applicable.

Reappraisal of Literature

This survey is a library research and all the information is obtain through different books, whether straight or indirectly discoursing the stuffs, essays, electronic beginnings and many other possible beginnings in which the related stuffs can be found. This research is chiefly focused on the original text of selected novels which are published, and besides secondary beginnings, which explain and criticized these Novels, are used in order to assist amplification of the novels. The chiefly concentration is on those surveies which are related to the construct of new Historicism.

Coral Ann Howells in The Cambridge Companion to Margaret Atwood attempts to garner essays by Twelve taking international Atwood critics, provides the most comprehensive and up to day of the month history of Atwood ‘s novels. These essays consider Atwood subject, linguistic communication, wit and narrative techniques. As a instance in point Somacarrera ‘s essay ” Power political relations: power and individuality ” or Vevaina ‘s “ Margaret Atwood and history ” with many other essay from this book could assist this survey to travel up in a better manner.

The Greenblatt Readers which is edited by Michael Payne makes available in one volume Greenblatt ‘s most of import authorship on civilization, Renaissance surveies and Shakespeare. It besides features occasional pieces on topics every bit diverse as storytelling and checkups, showing the scope of his cultural involvements. Take together, the text collected here dispel the thought that new historicism is antithetical to literary and aesthetic value. By the aid of this book the research worker would wish to uncover the progressive procedure of new historicism from Greenblatt to Foucault. Especially portion one of this book which dedicate to civilization and new historicism, could be extremely utile for present survey.

Rutledge Critical Thinkers are some books which offer debuts to major critical minds who have influenced literary surveies and humanistic disciplines. Each book will fit the reader to near these minds original text by explicating their cardinal thoughts, demoing the reader why they are considered to be important ; Stephen Greenblatt by Mark Robson is the 1 of these series which non merely present Greenblatt as a prima figure of new historicism but besides ties to explicate precisely what new historicism agencies and the relevancy of new historicism to all facets of literary unfavorable judgment this book will assist the research worker to happen the dominant similarity and contrast between Greenbelt ‘s new historicism and Foucaltian new historicism.

Assorted articles which make usage of the theories of Foucault are referred to, such as Saundra lee Bartky ‘s “ Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power, ” in which the writer entirely examines the dianoetic force per unit areas upon the female organic structure.

In The History of Sexuality, Volume I: an Introduction Foucault provides much utile information on the beginning, definition, and the intervention of the sexual organic structure. This information is besides utile in treatments refering organic structure and opposition.

Gary Gutting in The Cambridge Companion to Foucault tryes to show a systematic and comprehensive overview of Foucault ‘s major subject and texts from his early plants on lunacy through his history of gender, and relates his work to important modern-day motions such as critical theory and feminism. This book consist of several articles by different minds such as “ Foucault function of history ” by Thomas Flynn, “ Power/Knowledge ” by Joseph Rouse and “ Foucault feminism and inquiry of individuality ” by Jana Sawicki, which help the research worker in this survey.

Lisa Downing is Professor of Gallic Discourses of Sexuality and Director of the Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Sexuality and Gender in Europe at the University of Exeter. her book The Cambridge Introduction to Michel Foucault provides ways in to understanding Foucault ‘s cardinal constructs of subjectiveness, discourse and power. The book besides explores the critical response of Foucault ‘s plants and acquaints the reader with the afterlives of some of his theories, peculiarly his influence on women’s rightist and fagot surveies.

Each of these books represents to the full the term of new Historicism which can be good theoretical bases for present survey.


New historicism survey is a divergent field with legion thoughts, theorists, articles, and subdivisions. One outstanding flow of this sort of unfavorable judgment is limited to Foucault ‘s Ideas sing power, individuality, episteme, history, gender, cognition, discourse and civilization. Harmonizing to Gearhart in “ Cultural Analysis and Its Discontentments The issue of civilization has been at the centre of critical and literary-critical surveies for rather some clip now, and nowhere has it been more outstanding than in the influential signifier of literary unfavorable judgment that has come to be known as the new historicism ” . Colebrook in his book New literary Histories: New Historicism and Contemporary Criticism asserts that new historicism, a term applied to a tendency in American academic literary surveies in the eightiess that emphasized the historical nature of literary texts and at the same clip ( in contrast with older historicisms ) the textual nature of history. As portion of a wider reaction against strictly formal or lingual critical attacks such as the new unfavorable judgment and deconstruction, the new historicists, led by Stephen Greenblatt, drew new connexions between literary and nonaˆ?literary texts, interrupting down the familiar differentiations between a text and its historical background as conceived in established historical signifiers of unfavorable judgment. “ Inspired by Michel Foucault ‘s constructs of discourse and power, they attempted to demo how literary plants are implicated in the power dealingss of their clip, non as secondary contemplations of any consistent universe position but as active participants in the continual remake of significances ” ( Baldick 227 ) . New historicism is less a system of reading than a set of shared premises about the relationship between literature and history, and an essayistic manner that frequently develops general contemplations from a startling historical or anthropological anecdote.

The model of this survey is Foucault thoughts but before that the reader should go familiar with the construct of new historicism signifier Greenblatt to Foucault in order to understand its procedure and alterations ; so the chapter two has been devoted to this impression. Therefore, one rule purpose is to cognize how literature of the specific clip could be read harmonizing to new historicism.

Following this new historicism methodological analysis, chapters three and four argue the dominant constructs of new historicism harmonizing to Foucault ‘s definition of this impression and their application to selected novels. These constructs could be the episteme of the clip of the writer which influence her work of art, power circulation and the function of organic structure in this circulation, challenges of supporter for deriving cognition and individuality and so on. And chapter five could be a decision and sum up of this survey.

Restriction and boundary line of survey

The present survey is concerned merely with Margaret ‘s two selected Novels, instead than her poesies or short narratives. The pick of novels was besides hard because Margaret Atwood has assortment of novels which more or less deal with different capable affairs, therefore it is non possible to cover all of them in this survey. As a consequence, the research worker concentrates merely two novels which are most celebrated 1s and suit the capacity of the content of the survey.

These selective novels can be studied from different attacks but the research worker is non traveling to state what other have said, so she chooses to analyze the impression of new historicism harmonizing to Foucault definition of this term because this impression has assortment bomber subdivisions. Harmonizing to present analyze the new historicist elements such as Apparatus, Discipline, Discursive Practice, Episteme, Ethics, Identity and Power will be discuss to the full in the shadow of Michel Foucault definition of these footings. In this survey, the research worker will utilize the philosophers and theories which are related to her treatment and assist its advancement.

Tentative lineation

The Concepts of Identity, Power and Knowledge: A Foucaltian Study of Margaret Atwood ‘s Handmaid ‘s Tale and Edible Woman.



Chapter I. Introduction

General Background

The Argument

Literature Review

Thesis Outline

Approach and Methodology

New Historicism

Definition of Footings

Chapter 2. New Historicism from Foucault to Greenblatt

Chapter 3. Foucaltian survey of Handmaid ‘s Tale

Chapter 4. Foucaltian survey of Edible Woman

Chapter 5. Decision

Summarizing up

Findingss and deductions

Suggestion for farther reading


Definition of the Key Footings

The below key footings are among many which may utilize in the present survey:

Andocentric: centered on the male. The term has been coined by feminist theoretician wishing to depict a wont of head and set of attitudes which are based upon a male position and which ignore female experience and involvement ( Hawthorn 10 ) .

Apparatus: Foucault by and large uses this term to bespeak the assorted institutional, physical and administrative mechanism and cognition construction, which enhance and keep the exercising of power within the societal organic structure ( Hawthorn 12 ) .

Bio-power: Numerous and diverse techniques for accomplishing the subjection of organic structures and the control of populations ( History of Sexuality, Foucault 77 ) .

Confession: an of import constituent of bio-power. Peoples are taught that their release requires them to “ state the truth, “ to squeal it to person who is more powerful and this truth stating will somehow put them free ( Dreyfus and Rabinow p. 141, History of Sexuality, 58-65 ) .

Discipline: The methods, which make possible the punctilious control of the operation of the organic structure, which assure the changeless subjugation of its forces and enforce upon it a relation of docility-utility ( Discipline and Punishment, Foucault 137 ) .

Episteme: a term coin by Foucault and widely used by Derrida, to bespeak the entirety of dealingss and Torahs of transmutations unifying all dianoetic pattern at any minute of clip. Episteme established regulations by the dominant power in a societal organic structure that consequence person and their cognition of true or false ( Mills 28 ) .

Historicism: a agency of working with the job that all “ history ” is history from the position of the historiographer. “ Historicism is a agency of formalizing for itself the ageless critical relation at drama between history and human scientific disciplines ” ( The Order of Things, Foucault 372 ) .all cognition is rooted in the life, a society and a linguistic communication that have a history ; and it is in that really history that cognition finds the component enabling with other signifier of life ( The Order of Things, Foucault 372-3 )

Language or dianoetic pattern: this term refer to historically and culturally specific set of regulations for forming and bring forthing different signifier of cognition. It is a affair of regulations, which, a spot sort the grammar of linguistic communication, let certain statement to be made ( Mills 53 ) .

Power: power is non a thing but relation, it is non merely inhibitory but productive, and besides it is non merely a belongings of the province, but exercising throughout the societal organic structure ( Mills 34 ) .

Capable: Foucault uses the term ‘subject ‘ in topographic point of the ‘individual ‘ , which is structural linguistics ‘s preferable term for the ‘self ‘ , in two ways: He uses the ‘subject ‘ as both the grammatical topic, and capable as a verb ( Mills 1617 ) .