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The Historical and Biographical Lenses. What They Are, Why They’re Important and How to Apply Them. Historical. By examining the times and culture the author was immersed in, we can better understand their work A historical lens is necessary to fully understand allusions. New Historicism.

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The Historical and Biographical Lenses

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The historical and biographical lenses l.jpg

The Historical and Biographical Lenses

What They Are, Why They’re Important and How to Apply Them


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Historical

  • By examining the times and culture the author was immersed in, we can better understand their work

  • A historical lens is necessary to fully understand allusions


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New Historicism

  • Views history as subjective, rather than objective

  • Gained momentum in the 1970’s, and championed perspective as the defining characteristic of most historical works – i.e., winners write history

  • To use a metaphor, everyone’s lens is differently colored and therefore they may see the same thing in a different light


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Biographical

  • View work as the product of an author’s life

  • By examining the author’s life, it is easy to track their influences and what circumstances birthed certain ideas

  • However, some believe this style of examining work makes everything relative rather than universal


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Questions to Ask When Examining a Work Historically:

When did this person live?

What events were occurring at the time that

they may have been influenced by?

Was there a purpose to their work at the time?


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Questions to Ask When Examining a Work With the New Historicism Lens:

What was this person’s role in the political,

social or cultural happenings of their time?

Were any biases prevalent at the time

that may have influenced their thinking?


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Questions to Ask When Examining a Work Through a Biographical Perspective:

How was this person raised?

Did they suffer through any kind of tragedy or struggle?

What were their personal beliefs?

What age/stage of life were they in when they wrote the work?


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But you don’t want…

PRESENTISM!!!!


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Example #1

Jack and Jill went up the hill

To fetch a pail of water

Jack fell down and broke his crown

And Jill came tumbling after


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More Complicated Examples

The Catcher in the Rye

“Once More to the Lake”


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The Catcher in the Rye

Biographical:

  • Parallels between Salinger and Holden Caulfield

    Historical:

  • McCarthy’s communist attacks


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Once More to the Lake

Biographical:

  • White’s firsthand experience

    Historical:

  • World War II


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