Stephen Greenblatt is an American Literary critic. He was born in the year, 1943. He served as the Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. Greenblatt is one of the founders of new historicism which is also known as cultural poetics.
He used the term, New Historicism in The Power of Forms in the English Renaissance. New Historicism is a literary theory that attempts to understand intellectual history through an engagement between literature and cultural contexts. It tries to establish a connection between literature, history, culture, and social aspects.
According to the theory, Literature or understanding of literature is not divorced from cultural backgrounds. Stephen Greenblatt stated that Literature is not isolated from social and cultural themes.
He also believes that a text is shaped by the external agents around itself. It means that an author’s mindset is shaped by social and cultural responses between author and engagements with the world.
Stephen Greenblatt is prominent for his extensive works on William Shakespeare. He is the editor of The Norton Shakespeare (2015) and the general editor and a contributor to The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Stephen Greenblatt in his discourse on Shakespeare argued that Shakespeare’s drama should be analyzed through cultural and social themes rather than in isolation.
Towards a Poetics of Culture (1987) is a book by Stephen Greenblatt in which he discussed how art and society are interrelated. According to Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespeare’s plays are supposed to be read in connection with the cultural practices and social, political realities of the times in which we live.
He argued that Shakespeare’s drama is not meant to be read or understood purely as works of fiction. He further argued that such artistic works must create an academic discourse where readers and scholars engage with the politics and the culture in their times.
It becomes that a text becomes connected with history and politics existing in the world. Stephen Greenblatt argued that a text is an academic engagement with the problems of the world. And the text becomes a medium to understand the history and evoke questions and ideas about the problems in societies.
Some of his prominent books are Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England, 1989, Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World, 1992, Hamlet in Purgatory, 2002, Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, 2005, Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare, 1980, The Greenblatt Reader, 2005, Shakespeare’s Freedom, 2010, The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve, 2017, Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics, 2018.