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English 102: Literature and Composition

Readings and resources for ENG 102.

Historical Criticism Resources

What is historical criticism?

Historical criticism is the historical approach to literary criticism. It involves looking beyond the literature at the broader historical and cultural events occurring during the time the piece was written. An understanding of the world the author lived in (events, ideologies, culture, lifestyle etc.) allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the work.

Read & Ask Questions

  • Read the text more than once
  • Take note of anything you have questions about such as a​ word you need to look up or a significant plot point
  • Ask questions like:
    • What types of language, characterization, or events are portrayed?
    • What is the theme?
    • Are there any situations or references that you are not familiar with?
    • Does the text address any political/social concerns, historical events, figures, documents, literary texts, or belief systems?

Begin Your Research

Here is where you will gather all the information necessary to understand the text based on its historical context. You will want to begin your research by looking at the time period in which the work was written. Elements of the time period include:

  • Social structure (race, class, gender roles)
  • Culture (how people lived, values, family structure)
  • Politics (wars, leaders, conflict)
  • Economy (depressions, recessions, class divisions)
  • Religion (religious leaders, conflicts, prominence)
  • Intellectual history (sciences, education, philosophy)
  • Language
  • Other literary works published in this period