• Zorica Lola Jelic
Keywords: presentism, hermeneutical approach, Shakespeare, Grady, Hawkes, Fernie, Gajowski, adaptations


Presentism, as a hermeneutical approach, emerged, as many argue, mainly as a reaction to new historicism, which in turn was a reaction to the new criticism and other formalist approaches of the 1960s and 1970s; as such, it must stand in relation to and in constant dialogue with other approaches and theories. As Evelyn Gajowski said, "entering into a conversation with the past means entering into a dialogue not only with Shakespeare and his contemporaries, but also with the tradition of theatrical and critical responses to Shakespeare's texts that has accumulated over the course of four centuries."10 It is an active approach, since the text will always actively engage with the present moment and a specific place. Simply stated, the present moment influenced by present events will always be an alternate universe of what is in the text. The text will actively engage with the reader's imagination creating a new understanding and envisioning of the play, for example. However, presentism, even though the name suggests so, is not only anchored in the present; it is engaged with the past and with the present moment, and one can argue it is also engaged with the future. Kiernan Ryan11 reminds us that "presentist criticism of Shakespeare will be credible only if it engages in a dialogue with futurity as open and dynamic as the dialogue it must engage in with the past" (183). Similarly, for Ewan Fernie the text is in the past and in the present at the same time. He suggests that the text is in the present, but that the presence provides a phenomenological comprehension of the present, past, and future.12 Yet, it is not my intention to permanently single out presentism and advocate that it can and should stand on its own without participating and contributing to a wider discourse. The intention of this paper is to give a brief overview of this relatively "new" way of interpreting literature and the theorists who helped define it as such. This approach shows that personal education as well as social, political, and geographical circumstances influence how one interprets literature. Presentism itself has more than one way of viewing literature, since it has many other approaches and theories working within it, so we acknowledge that there are many presentisms. Hence, the theoretical works of Hugh Grady, Terence Hawkes, Ewan Fernie, and Evelyn Gajowski, the leading presentists of our time, are shown. Since they are all Shakespeare scholars their perspectives on presentism are given dominantly in relation to Shakespeare. The aim of this paper is to show the importance of this approach as well as to refute the claims that presentism is only a footnote in the history of literary theory. Furthermore, At this moment, presentism is the most significant and active hermeneutical approach, and this is why we, presentists, understand that they are not a part of some marginalized and ephemeral theoretical occurrence that exists solely in relation to new historicism; on the contrary, they are a part of a powerful approach that is by its nature inclusive and diverse in regards to other hermeneutical theories and approaches, and contributes equally in a broader theoretical discussion regarding the past, present, and future of texts, media, and literary theory.


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How to Cite
Lola Jelic, Z. (2018). PRESENTISM AS A RELEVANT CONTEMPORARY HERMENEUTICAL APPROACH. Knowledge International Journal, 26(3), 739 - 745. Retrieved from