Questions tagged [historical-context]

For questions regarding the influence of historical events or notions on a literary work, and about the extent to which works of literature accurately depict historical events, figures, customs, ideas, etcetera.

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18 views

Did the Eiffel Tower feature in any of Maupassant's stories or novels?

Guy de Maupassant wrote almost all of his fiction during a single decade: the 1880s. This was also the decade that saw the construction of the Eiffel Tower, namely in the years 1887-1889. The ...
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How had Mr. Fay's coat left him while his hands were bound tightly in Arthur Conan Doyle's “The History of Spiritualism”?

In volume I of The History of Spiritualism, Arthur Conan Doyle quotes a letter from Dion Boucicault describing a performance by "the Davenport brothers and Mr W. Fay" on October 11, 1864. How had Mr. ...
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Is Lambert-Sarrazin's moustache speech in Bel-Ami an allusion to a real speech?

The beginning of Chapter V in Part Two of Maupassant's novel Bel-Ami tells us about political discussions regarding the French colonisation of North Africa. One of the members of Parliament (the Third ...
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In Maupassant's Bel-Ami, why would it be compromising for a magistrate to have been in (the) mixed committees?

In the second chapter of Part Two of Maupassant's novel Bel-Ami, Georges Duroy's wife turns out to have interesting connections that allow the couple to write newspaper articles that can make or break ...
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Is Maupassant referring to a ranking of duellists or shooters that existed in late nineteenth-century France?

In Chapter VII of the first part of Maupassant's novel Bel-Ami, the main character, Georges Duroy, is insulted by another journalist. The disagreement escalates and leads to a duel using pistols. ...
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How did Shakespeare get away with staging witchcraft in his plays such as in 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 ...
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Political backdrop to “The Lancer's Wife” (Franco-Prussian War)?

"La Uhlane" is a short story by Jean Richepin, whose English translation "The Lancer's Wife" was erroneously attributed to Guy de Maupassant in the Walter Dunne edition of Maupassant's works. It ...
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What political leanings are being described for Monsieur Carre-Lamadon?

I've just begun reading the complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant, starting with one of his most famous, "Boule de Suif" (variously translated as "Dumpling", "Butterball", etc.) In an early ...
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What historical similarities are there to Burr's characterization in “Hamilton”?

In the 2015 musical, Hamilton written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Aaron Burr serves as the foil to Alexander Hamilton. While Alexander is rash, hasty, and always on the move, Aaron sits back and watches ...
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Is Marie's comment based on the existence of a two-tier justice system in French Algeria?

In Camus' novel L'étranger / The Stranger, Meursault gets arrested for shooting "an Arab". During his pre-trial detention, his girlfriend Marie pays him a visit in prison and tries to give him some ...
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Were there really such camps in India as attempts to prevent overpopulation?

Content warning: the story, and this question, concern implied mutilation. In R. K. Narayan's short story "The Edge", which I read as part of his 1982 collection Malgudi Days, the knife sharpener ...
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Why is Christopher Marlowe considered an atheist?

My question is, that how could it be possible for Marlowe to deny the existence of God while at the same time, produce such a masterpiece like Dr. Faustus whose topics are God, Lucifer, angels, virtue ...
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1 Henry IV Act 5, Scene 3: “God keep the lead out of me”

Henry IV Part 1, Act 5, Scene 3: Falstaff says ...God keep the lead out of me, I need no more weight than my own bowels. Is this referring to lead bullets? I was under the impression these ...
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Who is ‘the man in the barrel’ in ‘Three Act Tragedy’?

In Agatha Christie’s mystery novel Three Act Tragedy, the actress Angela Sutcliffe is being interviewed about the death of Stephen Babbington, vicar of St. Petroch’s church, Loomouth: “Dear old man, ...
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Literature of change [closed]

I am new to literature and was trying to find material on social change. The names of Mrs Gaskell, William Hale White and Thomas Hardy came up. I am interested in turning points in social history and ...
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What are the duties of a “receveur particulier”?

In Zola's Rougon-Macquart novels, specifically La Fortune des Rougon, set in December 1851, around the time of Napoleon III's coup d'etat, Pierre Rougon seeks to obtain the post of "receveur ...
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What does A. E. C. denote in the poem about Edward Anti-Teller?

"Perils of Modern Living" is a poem written by the physicist Harold P. Furth inspired by a speech on antimatter by Edward Teller. (Hat-tip to our comrades at Worldbuilding SE for making me aware of ...
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Was Afghanistan considered tropical or was Holmes wrong?

From the 1887 Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet: ... He has just come from the tropics, for his face is dark, and that is not the natural tint of his skin ... Where in the tropics could an ...
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Who ran the small errands in 19th century London?

Philip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke is set in 19th century London. Four of the main characters, Sally, Fred, Rosa, and Trembler, are running a small photographic studio. They are not particularly ...
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Was there a real person for Cardinal Vitori mentioned in This Side of Paradise of F. Scott Fitzgerald?

known by name as a fabulously wealthy American girl to Cardinal Vitori and Queen Margherita and more subtle celebrities that one must have had some culture even to have heard of. I was able to find ...
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What was the Great Silence Epidemic of 1712?

One of the many memorable pieces of wordplay in The Phantom Tollbooth is when the heroes meet Dr Dischord and his assistant, the awful DYNNE. "You mean you've never met the awful DYNNE before?" ...
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Explain the bidding in ‘The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker’

The short story ‘The Unprincipled Affair of the Practical Joker’ by Dorothy L. Sayers was collected in Lord Peter Views the Body (Gollancz, 1928). In this extract the characters are playing a game of ...
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Context of “swifter than arrow from the Tartar's bow”?

I go, I go; look how I go, Swifter than arrow from the Tartar's bow. -- Puck, Act III Scene II, A Midsummer Night's Dream This is a well-known line from a Shakespeare play, but did Shakespeare ...
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Why are the names Rumi and Mevlana respectively used for the famous poet?

This famous Persian poet and mystic was named Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī (جلال‌الدین محمد بلخى‎) or Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī (جلال‌الدین محمد رومی), where Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad was his actual ...
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Did 'A Doll's House' spark controversy over its dismissal of social classes?

I know the play caused drama over feminist ideas and all, but what about the social structure, such as in the end when Nora ignores Torvald's statement "You don’t understand the society you live in" ...
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Use of “Poke” as Victorian slang in Fingersmith

Sarah Waters' award-winning Victorian crime novel Fingersmith makes liberal use of period underworld slang. Indeed the title is such slang for a petty thief. Most of it is unfamiliar to the modern ...
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In “Candide”, are Prussian officers recruiting for the Bulgarian army?

I am reading Candide as part of my A Level. In the story Candide is chased from his home and finds "Two men dressed in blue". We later learn that they are trying to recruit him in the Bulgarian army. ...
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Dracula Cultural Anxieties

I have a question on Dracula and the Victorian era. I was just wondering to what extent the cultural anxieties of the Victorian age are represented in Dracula?
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Oldest children’s library in America?

I’ve already asked about the oldest free public library: now what’s the oldest children’s library in America?
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When was Shakespeare's The Tempest first analysed from a “post-colonial” perspective?

A recent answer from verbose mentioned: Postcolonial approaches to The Tempest cast Prospero as colonizer, exercising imperial control over the original inhabitants of the island: Caliban and Ariel....
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What is the significance of the traveler carrying writing materials in Ivanhoe?

The Jew's dress, which appeared to have suffered considerably from the storm, was a plain russet cloak of many folds, covering a dark purple tunic. He had large boots lined with fur, and a belt around ...
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Was the assassination plot in The Thirty-Nine Steps based on any real plot?

In John Buchan's famous short novel The Thirty-Nine Steps, much of the plot (ha) revolves around a German plot to assassinate the Greek Premier, which is thwarted by the story's hero. All this happens ...
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Three Musketeers - the diamond studs

The plot of the first part of The Three Musketeers revolves around 12 diamond studs that Queen Anne d'Autriche gives to the Duke of Buckingham. What exactly were those studs? I mean, what was this ...
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What does Benjamin Franklin mean here in his essay, “On True Happiness”?

There is no happiness, then, but in a virtuous and self-approving conduct. Unless our actions will bear the test of our sober judgments and reflections upon them, they are not the actions, and, ...
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Is there any evidence Mat Cauthon was inspired by Matthias Corvinus?

Matthias Corvinus, also known as the Raven King, was King of Hungary and Croatia for a while in the 1400s. He was a noted general, and extensively made use of Hussite mercenaries in his battles. He ...
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What does this line about Foucault's job being to “historicize discourse and textualize history” mean?

I found a line in my book which says something like this: Michael Foucault's main job is to historicize discourse and textualize history. The context of this quote is the following (from a course ...
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What does Adam Smith mean here in The Wealth of Nations?

In a country which has neither foreign commerce nor any of the finer manufactures, a great proprietor, having nothing of which he can exchange the greater part of the produce of this lands which is ...
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Treatment of the German “von” in a novel [closed]

A secondary character in a historical WWII novel I am writing is named Gerhard von Trapp. Should I include the "von" when referring to him only by his last name, or perhaps drop the von, esp. when ...
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What were the “Leicestershire clowns”?

In Sir Walter Scott's "Chronicles of the Canongate" we have the following "indigestion, from having swallowed victuals like a Lei'stershire clown bolting bacon" I have not traced any other ...
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Why do peasants in 19th century Russian literature often have Greek names?

Why do peasant characters in 19th century Russian literature so often have Greek names? (e.g. "Agafon" and "Platon" in Anna Karenina).
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Was the affair between John Proctor and Abigail in The Crucible historically accurate?

In the famous play by Arthur Miller, The Crucible, John Proctor and Abigail had an affair that drove the major plot points of the play/movie. In The Crucible, John and Abigail are ~30 and 17 years old ...
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Relevance to literature of 1623 ban on swearing in England

In 1606, the English Parliament passed the Act to Restrain Abuses of Players, and plays written after that date avoided using the names of God or Jesus "jestingly or profanely". The Wikipedia ...
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Why did O’Shaughnessy write Ode?

Are there any theories on what motivated O’Shaughnessy to write Ode (also called 'We are the Music Makers') ? Basically, he was not a "world-forsaker" himself. I read that he worked as a ...
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How much is 95000 rubles from 1897 worth in today's money?

In the Anton Chekhov play Uncle Vanya, Vanya said that the whole estate was bought for 95000 rubles. How much money would that be in today's market?
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What work is titled “Distresses of the Industrious Population”?

From George W. M. Reynolds' The Mysteries of London (1844–1845): "Ah!" said the bookseller, after a pause; "nothing now succeeds unless it's in the comic line. We have comic Latin grammars, and ...
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References in the first stanza of Amiri Baraka's poem “Somebody Blew Up America”?

In the poem "Somebody Blew Up America" by the African-American poet Amiri Baraka, he references a few people at the end of the first stanza: They say it's some terrorist some barbaric A Rab ...
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What was Dickens's attitude towards revolution?

Charles Dickens wrote two "historical novels": A Tale of Two Cities, set during the French Revolution, and Barnaby Rudge, set during the Gordon Riots. I find it interesting that both of these books ...
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Pissing in a sink in The Unbearable Lightness of Being

In Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, at some point one of the main characters - Thomas, that is a Czech doctor - in the house of one of his lovers decides to piss in the sink. The ...
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Why did 18th-century readers judge Gothic literature countercultural or 'Gothic'?

Dr. Lilia Melani admits that [1.] To most modern readers, however, The Castle of Otranto is dull reading; except for the villain Manfred, the characters are insipid; the action moves at a fast clip ...
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Equestrian statues and wooden logs, what's the connection?

Here's a quote from Tomas de Quincey's "Confessions of an English Opium-Eater": Turkish opium-eaters, it seems, are absurd enough to sit, like so many equestrian statues, on logs of wood as stupid ...