Questions tagged [historical-context]

For questions regarding the influence of historical events or notions on a literary work.

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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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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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354 views

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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39 views

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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How successful was Barack Obama's book “Dreams from my father” before he became well-known?

Barack Obama's book Dreams from my Father was released in 1995 - many years before he became a senator and then president. Before he became well-known in politics, how successful was the book and him ...
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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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‘Comedies leave readers and audiences with a final sense of joy.’

How does this relate to Katherine's last speech in the play "The Taming of the Shrew"? This was a question that I received last year, but it was in to form of an 'To what extent do you agree' essay. ...
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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: After discovering the ...
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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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Can the success of “The Day of Doom” be attributed to above average literacy in colonial America?

"The Day of Doom" has been described as America's first bestseller, but can that be attributed to the above-average literacy rate among Puritans and in America overall? Would this poem have been less ...
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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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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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146 views

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 ...
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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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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 ...
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Why did Volume 3 of “The Civil War: A Narrative” take so long to write?

The Wikipedia page on The Civil War: a Narrative says the following about the publication history: In 1964 [Shelby Foote] began Volume 3, Red River to Appomattox, but found himself repeatedly ...
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Why does Shelby Foote use the phrase “airline miles” in The Civil War: a Narrative?

In The Civil War: a Narrative, Shelby Foote periodically uses the phrase "airline miles" to mean "distance on a straight line." I can't recall offhand hearing this phrase anywhere else; why this ...
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Why is “Oranges and Lemons” supposed to describe child sacrifice?

The popular nursery rhyme "Oranges and Lemons": Oranges and lemons, Say the bells of St. Clement’s. You owe me five farthings, Say the bells of St. Martin’s. When will you pay me? ...
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Why are two earls the rankiest of all?

In Iolanthe, by Gilbert and Sullivan, Phyllis sings (after discovering the "betrayal"): So the richest and rankiest of you all My sorrowful heart shall choose. then: I'll be a countess, shall ...
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Why is the folk song Cutty Wren included in Arnold Wesker's play Chips With Everything?

Arnold Wesker's play Chips with Everything is an examination of class attitudes in Britain through the window of the armed forces. In one scene a group of conscripts sing the peculiar English folk ...
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How is G. B. Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra (1898) different from the eponymous characters' true relationship?

I know that Shaw's play is a fictionalized account of Caesar and Cleopatra's relationship. But how is G. B. Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra (1898) different from the eponymous characters' true ...
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Consular Operations in Robert Ludlum’s books

When reading “Bourne Identity”, closer to the end of the book an agency called Consular Operations is introduced. Since I had never heard of such thing, I’ve searched, and discovered that it is ...
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When was young Cosette's bedtime?

While the song "Come to Me" was probably not intended as a treatise on astronomical timekeeping or 19th-century French child-rearing, some of Fantine's lines (taken at face value) fit together for a ...
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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 ...
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Is there a relationship between Edward VI and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?

In my office there is a guy named "Ed". When he is not around, some of the other guys say to those who ask for him that "We are Ed-less". It sounds like an Irish accent saying "headless". I ...
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How were notes sent from classroom to classroom in Up the Down Staircase?

In Bel Kaufman's Up the Down Staircase, part of the story is told through notes that Sylvia Barrett sends to other teachers. For example, the first one goes FROM: Mrs. Beatrice Schachter, Room 508 ...
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702 views

Why does John Winthrop compare the Massachusetts Bay Colonists to “a city upon a hill”?

John Winthrop's sermon "A Model of Christian Charity" (which you can read online) is an extraordinarily famous sermon, which is referenced by American politicians to this day. In this sermon, John ...
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Why are there so many references to Moneylenders and Jews in 19th century fiction?

In 19th century fiction, there are a lot of references to moneylenders as "Jews". For example, in "Framley Parsonage", by Anthony Trollope, Lord Lufton says "the pocket-books of the Jews are stuffed ...
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How fictionalised is “Dust Tracks on a Road”?

I just finished reading Zora Neale Hurston's memoir Dust Tracks on a Road and I thought it seemed to be full of tall tales as well as omissions, though obviously it is based on her real life. In his ...
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Could you actually go around the world in 80 days?

Around the world in 80 days is a novel be Jules Verne about an Englishman who makes a bet with some fellow club members that he can travel around the world in 80 days. Nowadays with modern flight, ...
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How did real historical Igbo society differ from its portrayal in Things Fall Apart?

I recently read Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, and found its detailed portrayal of historical Igbo (aka Ibo) culture very interesting. My understanding is that it's a reasonably close ...
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Was Odysseus considered unfaithful to his wife in the Odyssey?

Penelope is portrayed throughout the story to be virtuous when it comes to men, meaning that she holds out hope for her husband's safety 20 years after she saw him and had no other relationships in ...