The Rise of Anthropological Theory, Political Shakespeare
is a term which has, from the 1980s, become something of a catch-all, implying an interdisciplinary theoretical orientation which approaches ‘cultural texts’ (by no means exclusively literary ones) as materially produced by political and social forces, institutions of patronage, and ideological ‘discourses’ (educational, legal, religious, etc.) specific to their historical moment. Ostensibly coining it (despite earlier claims within the field of anthropology by Harris, The Rise of Anthropological Theory, 1965), Dollimore and Sinfield (Political Shakespeare, 1985) define the term as combining insights offered through Marxist, feminist, and post-structural critiques of traditional assumptions about cultural texts. Its self-declared task is to analyse them as embodying the complex cultural contradictions of the moment of their production, but unlike its American cousin, New Historicism, cultural materialism lays claim to a theoretical method which escapes the limitations of Formalism and holds a radical political commitment to expose traditional categories of critical thinking and hierarchy. The sophisticated Marxist theories of Walter Benjamin and Raymond Williams are crucial influences. See also Marxist Literary Criticism.