I appreciated the way that Barry contrasted the new historicism with cultural materialism to help readers understand them in terms of the other, but I’m still not sure that I understand either very well.  While understanding literature in the context of history is important to help readers understand literary elements, particularly character motivation and decisions (or lack thereof), considering them as co-texts helps us to learn from both the historical perspective and the author’s interpretation of that historical perspective through literature.  The new historicism considers literature and history as parallel texts, which can be done only in hindsight as an author looks back at a time in order to create literature from within that time period. The author, depending on how many years have passed between the historical event and the time in which the author is writing, has the added benefit of knowledge of how that time has come to be interpreted, which may or may not have influenced the literature they created. 

I connected most strongly with the Howsam article, as it spoke to both the book nerd and the publication nerd in me (8 years of middle school and high school yearbook staff/advisor). I read these articles after a meeting in which we were considering ways to add gaming culture to the teaching of writing, and I geeked out at the historical discussion of printed texts as well as the various synonyms for book parts and book culture, which reminded me of the Little Alchemy game in which campfire + human = story, and paper + story = book. 

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Youth Voices is an open publishing and social networking platform for youth. The site is organized by teachers with support from the National Writing Project. Opinions expressed by writers are their own.  See more About Youth VoicesTerms of ServicePrivacy Policy.All work on Youth Voices is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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