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The University of Southampton
Humanities Graduate School

Interpreting Histories

Welcome to ‘Interpreting Histories’, a reading group in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Southampton.

Contact Details
Harry Warwick

Stephen Watkins

Group Description
The core aim of this group is to encourage reflection on how we use history, and historical methods of enquiry, in our research and in our approaches to literature, film, and other cultural media. To achieve this, we will engage with the theories and critiques of historicism that have emerged in the last few decades. We will be asking, among other things, what is historicism? What is history? What is the significance of using history as an ‘example’? Does the historical precede interpretation, or is it an effect of it? How does the methodological work of Foucault, Lévi-Strauss, Althusser, and others continue to inform our research? Or do they now seem outdated, consigned to history themselves? We hope that the arguments discussed in the group will be relevant and useful to scholars and students across the humanities. Undergrads, postgrads, and academics from all fields are welcome and encouraged to participate in our sessions.

Our first meeting will be on Thurs 12 Feb, in building 58, room 1041 (seminar room M) at 5pm. Refreshments provided! (Generously supported by the Humanities Graduate School.)  We look forward to seeing you there!

Reading Schedule

Week 1
Foucault, ‘Introduction’, Archaeology of Knowledge & The Discourse on Language, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972), pp. 1–17

Week 2

Stephen Greenblatt, ‘The Circulation of Social Energy’, in Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England (Berkley, LA: University of California Press, 1988), pp. 1–2 <>
Jonathan Dollimore, ‘Introduction: Shakespeare, Cultural Materialism and The New Historicism’, in Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985), pp. 2–17

Week 3
Hayden White, ‘The Historical Text as Literary Artefact’, The Norton Anthology of Theory & Criticism, ed. Vincent B. Leitch et al (London: Norton, 2010), pp. 1536–1553

Week 4
Louis Althusser, ‘Marxism is not a Historicism’, Reading Capital, trans. Ben Brewster <>

Week 5
Claude Lévi-Strauss –TBC
Derrida – ‘Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences’ (1970) <>



Interpreting Histories
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