Questions tagged [cultural-context]

Questions about the relation between works of literature and a specific cultural context. Cultural context does not necessarily refer to the context in which the work originated; it can also refer to the reception in a different cultural context.

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6
votes
1answer
148 views

"Anne of Avonlea": why was painting the building blue considered inappropriate?

Reading Anne of Avonlea, I see the main characters encounter a problem when by accident the hall that they cared about so much was painted blue instead of green: "Haven't you heard?" said ...
4
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2answers
152 views

Does 'In a Grove' assume that dead people don't lie?

'In a Grove' is one of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa's best-known short stories, partly due to Kurosawa's film Rashomon. In this short story, we get several accounts of the death of samurai Kanazawa no Takehiro....
4
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0answers
50 views

Why does the Talkative Man's master say that one ought not to play the raga 'punnaga varali' at night?

In the short story The Snake-Song (a part of the collection titled Malgudi Days), the Talkative Man describes an event in his youth that led to him having to abandon his music: the Talkative Man had ...
10
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3answers
2k views

What is the "Isle of the Blessed" and why should a girl see it before marriage?

In Chapter 3 of Theodor Fontane's novel Effi Briest, which I've recently started reading online, Effi and her mother are spending some days in Berlin before her marriage, accompanied by her cousin ...
22
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1answer
6k views

How did Shakespeare get away with staging witchcraft in his plays such as Othello, Macbeth, or The Tempest?

The themes of witchcraft and magic loom large over Shakespeare’s later plays. While there is no overt use of magic and spells in Othello, per se, as compared to the witches in Macbeth conjuring on ...
12
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1answer
1k views

What are the "torch dance" and "garter dance", in 19th-century Germany?

From Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest, which I'm reading online, during the wedding of Effi and Innstetten in Chapter V: The dancing had continued till three o'clock, with the effect that Briest, who ...
1
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0answers
33 views

How did the Cutty Wren come to be the national anthem of Tristan da Cunha?

The Cutty Wren, a traditional English folk song, is the "territorial song" (like national anthem for a British Overseas Territory?) of Tristan da Cunha, one of the remotest islands on earth ...
3
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0answers
32 views

How does ancient Greek polytheism fit with Christianity in The Lusiads?

The Lusiads (Os Lusíadas), considered the national epic of Portugal, was written by Luís Vaz de Camões during the 16th century, a period in which the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions were menacing ...
2
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0answers
40 views

What is the cultural history of family “kissing” in Victorian/Edwardian novels?

I read a lot of Victorian/Edwardian fictional novels, mostly books that were geared towards female readers. Often enough, family members are described as kissing each other. Sometimes a kiss on the ...
3
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2answers
180 views

What is meant by "Nysa" in the Lusiads?

The following verse appears in Book 1 of The Lusiads (William Mickle's translation, 1877 edition; emphasis mine): So spoke high Jove: the gods in silence heard, Then rising, each by turns his ...
15
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4answers
533 views

Is it a common motif in (western) storytelling that the antagonists are located to the east?

I'm not sure if this is the correct place for this question. I was reading some Lord of the Rings-lore the other day and it got me thinking about the location of "evil" in storytelling. In ...
2
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1answer
123 views

What is "the seventh sphere"?

In the second part (Helen Zimmern's translation) of the Shahnameh, the youngest son Irij is killed by his brothers, who send his head back to their father Feridoun: Now when they were come to the ...
3
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1answer
393 views

In the song "Whiskey in the Jar", would Captain Farrell have been British or Irish?

In the song "Whiskey in the Jar", would Captain Farrell have been British or Irish? What was the historical setting and context of the song's tale?
4
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1answer
85 views

Is there some cultural significance in the "chhanna" or metal bowl?

The Punjabi poem "Chhanna, the Metal Bowl" is about a "flat-bottom metal bowl" which is apparently some kind of family heirloom, "filled with memories". What's so special about a metal bowl? Is it ...
8
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1answer
195 views

What is being satirized in Witold Gombrowicz's Trans-Atlantyk?

Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz is a satire of Polish identity. However, it is difficult to know what exactly is being satirized if you're not Polish, and not intimately acquainted with Polish ...
2
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0answers
31 views

Julia Wong Kcomt, "The Red Rooster"

The Chinese-Peruvian poet Julia Wong Kcomt wrote two poems for Words Without Borders about her experiences as a product of two different cultures. I'm particularly interested in the first of them, ...
1
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0answers
36 views

What is the significance of 36 in the Vietnamese poem "Learning Late Letters"?

"Learning Late Letters", a poem originally written in Vietnamese by Nguyễn Hoàng Quyên, was one of the winners of the 2020 Words Without Borders Academy of Americans Poets Poems in ...
7
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1answer
136 views

What religion is suggested by the "God" in the Korean sun/moon origin story?

In the Korean folk story 해와 달이 된 오누이, translated here as "The Origin of the Sun and the Moon" from Pyun Yung-tai, Tales from Korea (Seoul, 1948), two children are pursued by a tiger and end ...
6
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2answers
2k views

Why is the Star of the County Down referred to as Colleen?

While listening to the Irish Rovers version of the traditional Irish song "Star of the County Down", I noticed an apparent discrepancy in her name: Near Banbridge town, in the County Down ...
32
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3answers
17k views

Why do many Korean folk tales start with "back when tigers smoked"?

I've read in a few sources that the Korean equivalent of the "once upon a time ..." which often begins English folk stories is something like "back when tigers smoked ..." or "...
2
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0answers
13 views

Did Maupassant adapt the style and content of his stories to the newspapers that published them?

Guy de Maupassant published his short stories and novellas in newspapers and periodicals such as Le Figaro, Gil Blas, Le Gaulois and L'Écho de Paris before they were published in book form. Le Figaro ...
2
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1answer
34 views

What is the relevance of these Igbo proverbs to the situation of widows and their children?

I've started reading the Igbo short novel Night has Fallen in the Afternoon (freely available online both in the original Igbo language and in English translation). As the translator notes, "[t]...
4
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1answer
59 views

What does Daisy's proverb about being married to the devil mean?

In the second part of R. K. Narayan's novel The Painter of Signs, Raman and Daisy are on their way back from a remote village. They have spent a night on the road, Raman sleeping under a bullock cart ...
4
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1answer
99 views

Was the Ayah paid partly in clothes, and was this standard practice?

In R. K. Narayan's short story "A Willing Slave" (which I read as part of his 1982 collection Malgudi Days), the old lady known simply as "the Ayah" takes care of many responsibilities, but her main ...
6
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0answers
30 views

Is Daisy's Gorilla game based on a real game?

In Part Two of R. K. Narayan's novel The Painter of Signs, Raman and Daisy visit a remote village, after which they return to Malgudi. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they need to spend a night on ...
10
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2answers
762 views

Is Narayan really quoting a traditional proverb, and from which Indian language/culture?

In the story "Fellow-Feeling" from R. K. Narayan's short story collection Malgudi Days (which I've been reading online), a proverb is mentioned in passing: Rajam Iyer leaned back in his seat, ...
5
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1answer
463 views

Is there any general significance to 20 May in Hinduism, or was it just personally auspicious?

In R. K. Narayan's short story "The Missing Mail", from the 1943 collection Malgudi Days, which I've been reading online, the resident Ramanujam is desperately trying to arrange a marriage for his ...
0
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1answer
103 views

How can "Death be not proud" be related to the areas of exploration?

Here is the summary of the poem "Death Be Not Proud" by Jon Donne (Source - https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44107/holy-sonnets-death-be-not-proud)- “Death Be Not Proud” presents an argument ...
3
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1answer
65 views

In A Tale of a Tub, in what sense does Martin stand between Peter and Jack?

Wikipedia has the following to say about Jonathan Swift's A Tale of a Tub (formatting added): A Tale of a Tub is divided between various forms of digression and sections of a "tale". The "...
11
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3answers
7k views

How do people "kiss their teeth" in Nalo Hopkinson's novels?

At the start of the novel Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson, one of the characters, Makeda, is looking for a new place to live. A certain Milo rents out "units" in what he calls "warehouse living" and ...
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0answers
58 views

Relevance of the cloud chariot story to the rest of Midnight Robber?

Nalo Hopkinson's novel Midnight Robber contains a story entitled "How Tan-Tan Learn to Thief". It is one of the many elements from Caribbean culture that Hopkinson draws on in the novel. The story is ...
2
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0answers
173 views

Origin of Dry Bone in Nalo Hopkinson's Midnight Robber

Nalo Hopkinson's novel Midnight Robber contains a story entitled "Tan-Tan and Dry Bone". It is one of the many elements from Caribbean culture that Hopkinson draws on in the novel. Hopkinson's novel ...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

What is a "fetish man" in African tribal culture?

I'm translating Robert E. Howard's short story "The Hyena". It was published in 1927. There is a character called Senecoza and Howard (and the protagonist) always refer to him as "the fetish man". And ...
5
votes
1answer
78 views

Was C.P. Snow's "The Two Cultures" about Britain specifically or western culture in general?

I was reading the Wikipedia page on C.P. Snow's article/lecture/book The Two Cultures, about the divide between science and the humanities in academia. The Wikipedia page seems to have a contradiction,...
4
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0answers
247 views

Before reading "A Grain of Wheat," what historical facts and cultural context are useful to know?

I'm looking to read A Grain of Wheat, by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. However, I'm very unfamiliar with the history and culture of Kenya, to the point where I know practically nothing about it. But I do know ...