Historical literary criticism focuses mainly on the subject's relevance, relationship with, and influence upon the historical period in which it was written. A historical critic looks at how the time period influenced the writing of the work as well as how events in the authors life influenced him or her. A work of historical criticism posits a thesis about the author or time period based on the subject. Thus historical criticism looks at texts in the same way as a historian looks at historical documents: in order to learn what they reveal about the historical and socio-cultural circumstances in which they were produced.
New Historicism shares this interest in the historical context within which texts were produced, but also acknowledges that the act of reading texts is as much a product of the historical context within which it is done as the writing of texts is. It thus sees interpretation as both a creative activity and as a process which is never-ending, as each successive generation of readers experiences texts from the past from the perspective of a new social/ historical context.