This paper will explore the short story “Morgan, Morgan” by Janette Turner Hospital in a poststructuralist way using both New Historicism and Deconstruction. First, we will explore the tenants of New Historicism and apply it to the story, and then we will explore the tenants of Deconstruction and apply it to the story. The ideals of New Historicism were first outlined by Michel Foucault and later developed by Stephen Greenblatt. Foucault did not develop New Historicism; however, his philosophy and ideas formed the basis of the practice. As Warren Hedges has noted,
Foucault’s contribution to literary studies has been to encourage us to think about how no writer’s description or categorization is simply neutral. Instead we can think about how writers further, complicate, or challenge the discourses of their time.
He goes on to say that, these discourses “promote specific kinds of power relations, usually favoring the ‘neutral’ person or professional.”
New Historicism as a literary practice didn’t come into being until the 1980’s when the questions raised by Foucault developed into practice, led by Stephen Greenblatt. This process was not instantaneous; it took a long time to fully develop into a series of reading practices. “New Historicism,” Hunter Cadzow writes,
Never was and never should be a theory; it is an array of reading practices that investigate a series of issues that emerge when critics seek to chart the ways texts, in dialectical fashion, both represent a society’s behavior patterns and perpetuate, shape, or alter that culture’s dominant codes.
Grandpa Morgan challenged his culture’s dominant codes and the discourses of his time. We see this represented in the passage relating to Uncle Charlie’s death. Morgan had an earthy spirituality that he had gained through his experiences in the world, and through his passion for gardening. He was deeply connected to the earth and to the soil, encouraging his dahlia’s to grow, crossbreed and continually become more healthy and beautiful. His faith was fluid, always growing. This is sharply contrasted with the unbending faith of the grandmother whose foundations were absolute and unchanging. The grandmother represents the dominant culture of religious faith. Her absolute and unbending “truth” that Uncle Charlie had gone “strait to heaven” (Lynn “Literature” 290) is a reflection of this culture whose ideas shape every fiber of the grandmother’s world. Grandpa Morgan, on the other hand, sees this viewpoint, and challenges it. He explains to the granddaughter that Uncle Charlie has simply died and been buried underground “with the dahlia bulbs” (Lynn “Literature” 290), deliberately referring to what happens to our bodies when we die. He ventured no guess as to where Uncle Charlie’s spirit may have gone. Grandpa Morgan knew that there was no simple or easy truth in the matter of death.
New historicism challenges our societal views, by asking the question...