Morrison’s Playing in the Dark and Carey-Webb’s Literature and Lives connect well under the discourse topic of how to connect traditionally Eurocentric literature, Cary-Webb’s example uses Shakespeare specifically The Tempest, to a more multicultural and inclusive approach. Morrison discusses how even in literature and literary analysis that Africans are a part an important part of the story and criticisms through the “shadows” made by their lack of focus.
The idea of minorities “shadows” can also be used and expanded upon through Carey-Webb’s thoughts. Using New Historicism allows the taking of Eurocentric literature and using I to think more broadly. Such as The Tempest and what it tells us about prior perspective on natives and colonialism and minorities. Texts that seem to lack a voice on outsiders by virtue of that lack saw a lot and that too can be discussed. Just as negative space in art helps create the picture so does an absence in literature send its own message.
Using New Historicism as basis for teaching literature allows for a comprehensive view on the historical and cultural placement on the text. This naturally encourages the incorporation of additional artifacts and supplementary texts to the core piece that further develops its significant. This helps answer the oft heard “Why are we reading this” uttered by students. Connecting different texts together and then discussing the political and cultural situation allows for moving the past to the present by making connections between the two and encouraging discussion on how the historical debates progressed to now.
Creating a textual web also gives students more pre and post information to help them anticipate and process respectively the central text. Giving a more concrete framework around the novels in class will help motivate students and help the teacher learn any areas that students may need help with before starting to read independently.
Another positive aspect of this approach is its ability to be used with any novel. All novels used in schools speak to some cultural aspect of their times and ones that lack an inclusive stance can be used to talk about exclusion through the “shadows” created by the voices left out. Learning to recognize who is not represented or not represented equitably is an equally important skill for students to master as critically analyzing what is explicitly in the text.
Using New Historicism and keeping in mind those left out of text is a flexible way to keep all novels culturally relevant and currently relevant. Even Shakespeare can be made relevant to modernity and made to be cultural relevant through this flexible approach