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History and Contextualisation

Please refer carefully to your lecture notes and the powerpoint slides from the lecture as you prepare this worksheet.

Please work in groups on the following exercises. Can I suggest the groups we used last term? If you want to re-organise, however, just let me know:

  • Megan, Jessica, Lucy, Sorcha
  • Ceri, Tasha, Seye, George,
  • Serena, Chris, Julia, Celine, Emilie

1. Identify a ‘timeless’ cultural object work and analyze in exactly what sense(s) it can be said to be ‘timeless’

2. Select one literary, filmic, musical or philosophical text from earlier this year and contextualize it historically:

      • find two other (new) texts to help elucidate its meaning (do some research in the library)
      • how reliable are these other two texts?
      • how does your own approach to contextualization resemble and differ from a structuralist, poststructuralist and cultural materialist approach?
      • what are the political and theoretical commitments underlying your own approach?

3. The following questions are taken from the mock exam paper:

      • Do we need to know how real audiences have actually responded to a text in order to read it correctly?
      • What is relevant context?

Choosing ONE question, come up with 3 key points that you would raise, and find 2 examples from a term 1 or term 2 text of your choice to illustrate these. Please post these points on the page by Thursday morning, using the comments feature below.

Further food for thought: to consider in your own time after the seminar:


4. Re-read the article ‘Teaching Candide: A Debate’, The French Review, vol. 61 (March 1988), pp. 569 – 577 (article available on the Candide section of the Strategies pages). Think about the following questions:

  • In what ways does this article echo the debates about history and context set out in the lecture?
  • How far do you agree with the following statements from the article:
      • ‘A minute of background is all that is needed, and this is to be found in every school edition of [Candide].’
      • ‘The reader’s success in resolving the ambiguities in Candide depends on the texts he/she chooses to read.’ (576)
  • In what ways does the article express the limitations of each statement (give one or two examples)?