This essay argues that the critical practice of New Historicism is a mode of “literary” history whose “literariness” lies in bringing imaginative operations closer to the surface of nonliterary texts and briefly describes some of the practice's leading literary features and strategies. I further point out that the ostensible “arbitrary connectedness” (Cohen 1987) of New Historicist writing is in fact aesthetically coded and patterned, both stylistically and in terms of potential semantic correspondences between various representations of the past. I then move on to address the question of why anecdotal evidence features centrally and has come to play a key role in New Historicist writing. Here, I contend that, as components of narrative discourse, anecdotal materials are central in enabling New Historicists to make discernible on the surface of their discourse procedures of meaning production typically found in literary forms. In particular, anecdotal materials are the fragmented“stuff” of historical narratization: they facilitate the shaping of historical events into stories and more or less formalized“facts.” This essay examines how the New Historicist anecdote remodels historical reality “as it might have been,” reviving the way history is experienced and concretely reproduced by contemporary readers of literary history. Finally, the essay confirms how the textual reproduction of anecdotal evidence also enables the New Historicist mode of“literary” history to secure its links to literary artifacts,literary scholarship, and conventional historical discourse.
Sonja Laden; Recuperating the Archive: Anecdotal Evidence and Questions of“ Historical Realism”. Poetics Today 1 March 2004; 25 (1): 1–28. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-25-1-1
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