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.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
7
votes
1answer
51 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 ...
4
votes
1answer
58 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 ...
1
vote
0answers
15 views

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 ...
22
votes
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 ...
8
votes
1answer
93 views

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 ...
2
votes
2answers
91 views

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,...
8
votes
1answer
2k views

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....
22
votes
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 ...
2
votes
1answer
103 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 ...
4
votes
0answers
49 views

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
votes
1answer
50 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
2k views

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
votes
1answer
131 views

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
votes
1answer
160 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 &...
4
votes
0answers
107 views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
128 views

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 ...
7
votes
1answer
274 views

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 ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

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, ...
3
votes
1answer
138 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?
13
votes
1answer
4k views

“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 ...
25
votes
2answers
10k views

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
votes
1answer
52 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
94 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 ...
9
votes
3answers
2k views

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
votes
1answer
112 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 ...
12
votes
0answers
115 views

Were the early sexual experiences of Lolita and her classmates inspired by the real experience of children in New England in 1947?

In the last pages of part 1 of Nabokov's Lolita Humbert relates Dolores's description of her own previous sexual experiences, in the course of which she mentions ways in which some of her coevals at ...
7
votes
1answer
794 views

What was “standard shift” in the 1920's?

I am reading The Great Gatsby, and encountered these sentences: "Shall we all go in my car?" suggested Gatsby. He felt the hot, green leather of the seat. "I ought to have left it in ...
1
vote
1answer
60 views

What does Benjamin Franklin mean here in his essay, “On True Happiness”?

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 ...
4
votes
1answer
62 views

Why is The Power of Fables, in Book VIII of Fables by La Fontaine, addressed to Paul Barillon, the French ambassador to England?

The Power of Fables (Le pouvoir des Fables), fable 4 of Book VIII of Fables written by La Fontaine, is addressed to Paul Barillon, the French ambassador to England under Louis XIV. I know that La ...
3
votes
1answer
58 views

How does “the socket drop them through” in “Aurora Leigh”?

In book V of Aurora Leigh (1856) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sir Blaise claims that in former days men chose their wives for their virtue and not for their décolletage: “My dear young friend, if ...
13
votes
3answers
3k views

Why couldn't Mr Dobbins become a doctor in “Tom Sawyer”?

In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, it's mentioned that the schoolteacher had an anatomy book in his desk due to wanting to be a doctor at one point. The master, Mr. Dobbins, had reached ...
2
votes
1answer
60 views

How was the context of “Old Ironsides” clear at its first publication?

Following links from another SE site, I ended up on the Wikipedia page for the poem "Old Ironsides" about the eponymous ship of the US Navy. Wikipedia tells us (with sources) about how this ...
5
votes
1answer
111 views

Cannot understand part from 'Dreams from My Father' by Barack Obama

The following part from Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father I cannot understand and it relates to history and some figures. These people, per my Wiki search, were influential in literature; but the ...
6
votes
1answer
61 views

Does the Order of Melchizedek's professed goal to bring the Vatican Council to the masses refer to a historical reality?

In Nick Joaquin's story or novella "The Order of Melchizedek", Guia, the main character's younger sister, has become a member of a religious organisation that is referred to as the Order of ...
4
votes
2answers
75 views

In Swimming in the Dark, why does Beniek go through the preparations for First Communion?

In Chapter 1 of Tomasz Jedrowski's Swimming in the Dark, set in the late sixties or early seventies, the protagonist Ludwik describes his childhood crush on a friend, Beniek. The boys become close ...
5
votes
1answer
62 views

What does it mean for George Washington to be “a Fabius and Camillus”?

On page 324 of David Hackett Fischer's book Washington's Crossing, there is an epigraph (quotation at the beginning of the chapter "The Battle at Princeton") by Horace Walpole on George ...
3
votes
1answer
260 views

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 ...
6
votes
1answer
575 views

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

In Thomas Hardy's 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, who ...
3
votes
1answer
91 views

“What the Turk do it matter to us”?

In the opening chapter of Thomas Hardy's "The Withered Arm", the following passage is found (emphasis mine): The discussion waxed so warm that the purr of the milk streams became jerky, ...
1
vote
1answer
70 views

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 ...
3
votes
1answer
211 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?
5
votes
1answer
202 views

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 ...
3
votes
1answer
77 views

1955 in Otro poema de los dones by Jorge Luis Borges

In the poem Otro poema de los dones by Jorge Luis Borges, there is a line which refers to 1955. Is Borges, being Argentine, referring to the military coup to unseat President Juan Perón of Argentina? ...
3
votes
2answers
217 views

Can the influence of the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic be seen in T.S. Eliot's “The Waste Land”?

A Guardian article from summer 2020, "The Covid novels are arriving. And they'll be a warning to future generations" by Laura Spinney, includes some discussion of the (apparently minimal) ...
3
votes
3answers
3k views

Was it normal to mix up the word “lady” with a man in Canada in 1894?

In "In the Midst of Alarms" (1894) by Robert Barr, the author is describing a conversation between, Yates, who had knocked someone down, and his friend, Stilly, who is usually quite and ...
11
votes
4answers
389 views

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 ...
2
votes
1answer
98 views

Meaning and historical reference in “Ind Aff”

In Fay Weldon's short story "Ind Aff or Out of Love in Sarajevo" I found the following passage: “The Hungro-Austrarian Empire,” said Peter to me, “didn't so much collapse as fail to exist ...
5
votes
1answer
195 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

What does Victor Hugo mean by “the red ant heaps of Toulon”?

In his novel "The Last Day of a Condemned Man", Victor Hugo writes the following sequence in reference to poor people who turn to crime out of hunger: Unfortunate beings, whom, by means of ...
20
votes
2answers
2k views

How much of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is based on real events?

Ernest Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls, the story of an American soldier fighting in the Spanish Civil War, a few years after his own experiences as an American journalist reporting on the ...