In 1988 Greenblatt published Shakespearean Negotiations, and in the first chapter declared that his work was ‘a poetics of culture’ (Greenblatt 1988, 5). This was followed with an essay in Veeser’s collection, The New Historicism (1989), which Greenblatt entitled ‘Towards a Poetics of Culture’. In 1990, in Learning to Curse, Greenblatt referred to the essays collected in that book as ‘Renaissance cultural poetics’ (Greenblatt 1990, 1). It seems, then, that in the late 1980s Greenblatt began to prefer the term ‘cultural poetics’ to describe his work rather than ‘new historicism’. Veeser indeed shares this view that Greenblatt began to prefer ‘cultural poetics’ (Veeser 1989, ix), as does Louis Montrose in Veeser’s collection (Veeser 1989, 17). Montrose endorses Greenblatt’s definition of ‘cultural poetics’ given in Shakespearean Negotiations as the ‘study of the collective making of distinct cultural practices and inquiry into the relations among these practices’ (Greenblatt 1988, 5). We will return to Greenblatt’s definitions of the concerns of cultural poetics later. In this chapter I have two main aims. The first is to analyse the critical practice of Greenblatt, Montrose, Tennenhouse and others (in short, those critics who had been associated with new historicism) from 1988 onwards.
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