Questions tagged [historical-context]

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

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6
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2answers
561 views
+100

What is the historical basis for Roark's claim about the Parthenon?

From Chapter 1, p. 23 of The Fountainhead: "Why do you want me to think that this is great architecture?" He pointed to the picture of the Parthenon. "That," said the Dean, "is the Parthenon!" "...
6
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1answer
594 views

Why is the country conjuror referred to as a "white wizard"?

In Thomas Hardy's 1888 short story "The Withered Arm" (freely available to read online), Gertrude Lodge and Rhona Brook go together to see a man named Trendle, often called Conjuror Trendle, ...
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4answers
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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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Boccaccio's portrayal of the Catholic Church

Day 1 Story 2 of the Decameron is essentially a searing satirical critique of the Catholic Church in Rome. A Christian man, Jehannot, is trying to convert his Jewish friend to Christianity; the Jew, ...
4
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1answer
50 views

What was wrong with becchini?

From the introductory part of The Decameron, in Pampinea's speech that inspires the seven young women initially to decamp to the countryside, she speaks of the atmosphere in their city of Florence at ...
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55 views

Was Vietnam referring to the Vietnam War in Zinky Boys?

In an interview with a major (track 8, day 2 in the audiobook), the interviewee mentions having friends who were in Ethiopia, Angola, and Vietnam. Is this likely referring to the Vietnam War (except, ...
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What happened to the USSR hospital at Khmelnitsky?

An interview with a major in Zinky Boys (day 2, track 8 in the audiobook) referred to a hospital of some kind in Khmelnitsky for long-term casualties who couldn't or wouldn't go home for various ...
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411 views

Does this edit in The Magician's Nephew (from "had her bathe" to "had her bath") fundamentally change the meaning of the sentence?

Later editions of C.S. Lewis 'The Magician's Nephew' have been edited, presumably to reflect modern usage. Polly went down and had her bathe; at least she said that was what she'd been doing, but we ...
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1answer
73 views

Is Belarus actually hard to farm?

To Our Native Land by Janka Lučyna starts as follows: Thou art spread widely with forests and marshes, With sand-dune expanses that grant but poor living It then goes on to talk about how bad the ...
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2answers
83 views

What were Bulgarian biscuits?

In Zinky Boys (track 7 in the audiobook), a female doctor complained that the girls she stayed with mostly talked about things like rubles, foreign currency vouchers, and how to steal meat and other ...
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1answer
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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? Say the ...
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1answer
295 views

In Les Miserables, why can Javert be the judge of Fantine and why does Monsieur Madeleine have the power to stop him?

In Les Miserables, one of the Protagonists, Fantine, attacks a citizen on the open street after he insulted her and put snow in the back of her dress. She is then arrested by Javert, the local police ...
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What is Paul's character based on in "Code Name Verity"?

One of the major supporting characters in Code Name Verity is Paul, leader of the Damask resistance circuit. A superb organizer, he takes pride in how he'd never lost anyone in his circuit (before ...
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Social class in medieval Italian literature and its changes during the Renaissance

I'm very interested in how notions of class were reflected in medieval Italian literature and how these archetypes, tropes, motifs or whatever you'd like to call them changed during the Renaissance ...
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1answer
105 views

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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1answer
156 views

What is the significance of a raised black flag?

In The Lost Sanjak, Saki Writes: and, in the midst of a string of questions on indifferent topics, the examining counsel asked me with a diabolical suddenness if I could tell the Court the ...
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Was the end of the censorship of Magda Szabó's work directly related to events in 1956 or the Hungarian Thaw?

The Wikipedia article about Magda Szabó says, In 1949 she was awarded the Baumgarten Prize, which was immediately withdrawn when Szabó was labeled an enemy to the Communist Party. (...) The Stalinist ...
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3answers
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Why is a "cucumber sandwich" specifically used as what English faith has "only just enough teeth to get through"?

In Chapter 34 of The Kingdoms, Kite goes on this musing about religion: The golden dome of the cathedral at Cadiz showed, just. He had been trying not to stare at it as much as he'd been trying not ...
6
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1answer
149 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 ...
5
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2answers
138 views

What are we to understand by "panther" in this Old English poem?

"The Panther" is an Old English poem, preserved in the Exeter Book, and translated in full by Aaron Hostetter. It's a poem about a panther, but what would the ancient Germanic peoples of ...
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1answer
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Was it common in the late 19th century to write normal places, like "cross roads" and "corners" in capital letters?

In In the Midst of Alarms (1894) by Robert Barr, a young boy was describing the place of blacksmith’s shop, saying: Oh, a couple of miles or so; down at the Cross Roads. Then he said later in ...
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1answer
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What did the men use to destroy Sandleford Warren?

In Watership Down, Chapter 21, Holly describes what happened back at Sandleford Warren. He does not understand what the men were doing. I don't either. Here's the relevant text [with a lot of side-...
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1answer
182 views

The Brothers Karamazov - When was Russia saved before?

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Book VI, Chapter 3 And how suprised men would be if I were to say that from these meek monks, who yearn for solitary prayer, the salvation of Russia will ...
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Is there a project for annotating e-books?

There are a number of projects collecting out of copyright literary works and making them available for download, e.g. Project Gutenberg and Bibebook. Many of these books would benefit from annotation ...
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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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1answer
109 views

Meaning of dash and initial substitution in Charlotte Brontë's Villette

The usage of dashes to obscure personal/place names and dates in Victorian literature has been widely noted, but I don't feel that the reasons that are usually given help me understand this case. I'm ...
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1answer
97 views

Is the "Lister Foundation" in "Catcher in the Rye" a real organization?

In Chapter 21 of Catcher in the Rye, Phoebe tells Holden about a movie she saw at the "Lister Foundation". No other mention of the Foundation appears in the text. Was it a real organization ...
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What plight of the Kurds is suggested in Mem and Zin chapter 5?

I'm reading online Salah Saadalla's translation of the Kurdish classic Mem and Zin. The early chapters aren't part of the main story: two chapters addressed to God, two to the prophet Mohammed, two ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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How accurate is Corbett's "My India"?

Jim Corbett's books are mostly autobiographical, My India particularly so. It describes several incidents across Corbett's life in India. One of the most moving ones is from Corbett's time as a ...
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Why is a special license needed to get married?

In a lot of historical romance novels (specifically those set in Regency England), people decide to get married very suddenly a lot of the time. You see this a lot in the marriage of convenience trope,...
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1answer
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How was the free-born Englishman prevented from taking his ease in his inn in 1922?

In The Markenmore Mystery (1922) by J. S. Fletcher, Blick, a detective who had booked rooms at "Sceptre Inn", which belonged to Grimsdale, was cheerful after reaching an important conclusion....
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1answer
5k views

Why would one of Germany's leading publishers publish a novel by Jewish writer Stefan Zweig in 1939?

I am reading the Penguin Edition of Impatience of the Heart by Stefan Zweig - also known as Beware of Pity in other translations. The reverse of the title page states that the book was first published ...
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1answer
114 views

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 kind of censorship was Dostoevsky avoiding by obscuring place names?

In the opening paragraph of "Crime and Punishment", two locations, S-- Lane and K--n Bridge, are identified only by their first and final letters. My translation has a footnote which says ...
3
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1answer
55 views

What is this passage saying about Precentor Jahnke?

In Chapter 1 of Theodor Fontane's novel Effi Briest, which I've just started reading online, two friends of Effi are introduced as follows: Two of the young girls, plump little creatures, whose ...
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1answer
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Chilli peppers in fifteenth-century India?

In Canto 7 of The Lusíads, when Vasco da Gama and his crew finally land in Calicut, they encounter a Moor named Monsayeed who explains to the former: You are now in India, with its various Peoples ...
6
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1answer
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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 ...
2
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1answer
166 views

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 &...
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How close to actual incantations are the witches' spells in Macbeth?

Answers to a recent question about the superstition surrounding Macbeth linked to a Royal Shakespeare Company web page that claimed: According to folklore, Macbeth was cursed from the beginning. A ...
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2answers
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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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1answer
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Origin and significance of E-I-E-I-O in the Old MacDonald song

The well-known children's song "Old MacDonald had a Farm" has lyrics in the following format: Old MacDonald had a farm E-I-E-I-O ! And on that farm he had {article} {singular or plural ...
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2answers
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Is Barrett Emerson, portrayed in the TV series "Will", a real Christopher Marlowe patron?

There is a (new) ten-episode series, called Will, depicting the "lost years" of Shakespeare and taking many liberties. Most of the adult characters are real: Robert Southwell , Francis Walsingham, ...
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1answer
167 views

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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1answer
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"My father declared he should invent a slip button"

From Lady Saba Holland's memoir of her father the Rev. Sydney Smith, published circa 1855: The reigning bore at this time in Edinburgh was ——; his favourite subject, the North Pole. It mattered not ...
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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, ...
4
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1answer
63 views

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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1answer
114 views

What is the dialect in "The Origin of White Folks" and what does it add to the poem?

I found "The Origin of White Folks" by Annie Virginia Culbertson (it's pretty far down the page) while reading a news article and became intrigued by its accent. The poem is clearly written ...
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What would it mean for a 19th-century German soldier to "wear the cross"?

In the first chapter of Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest, which I've started reading online, we are introduced to the character of Baron Geert von Innstetten as follows (emphasis mine): "Yes, ...
10
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1answer
114 views

How long is the Nijni-Novgorod trade fair?

In Jules Verne, Michel Strogoff, part 1 chapter 5, when Michel arrives to Nijni-Novgorod, there's a huge trade fair going on in the city. The text seems to give two contradictory numbers about how ...