Social and Cultural Context

Social and Cultural Context

In all your exams it is important that you consider the social and cultural contexts of the texts that you are studying. This is particularly important when comparing two writers and will be rewarded by the examiner.

Here are a number of prompts to help you consider this issue:

A simple but useful question:

  • Are the poems written by men or women?
  • If poets of the same gender write both poems, then do you notice different attitudes that suggest they are from different eras? Do they represent the voice of their gender at different times?
  • If on the other hand poets of different genders write the poems, then do you notice ideas or attitudes that reflect the gender difference?
  • Do the two writers interpret and approach the same issue in different ways?
  • Does this have anything to do with whether they are male or female?

Remember to use specific evidence. Be wary of crass generalizations.

  • When were the poems written?
  • Do they suggest ideas, which reflect a certain period of time?
  • If the poems are old, how do they relate to the modern reader?
  • Are the modern poems necessarily of more relevance to modern issues?
  • Can you see how attitudes have changed over a period of time?
  • Are there views that seem inappropriate nowadays, or alternatively do either of the poems have timeless qualities?
  • Have the poets used a certain style, which is associated with a certain era?
  • How does the style relate to the modern reader?
  • Do the poems represent ideas associated with a particular social background?
  • Do they represent views of similar or different social status? Is this relevant?
  • What language is used to highlight these social contexts?
  • Which cultures are the two poems from?
  • If they are from the same cultural background, do they approach the same issue in different ways?
  • What language is used which suggests a particular cultural setting?
  • If the poems are from different cultures, in what ways are the style, subject matter, and attitudes influenced by this?
  • Although the poems are from different cultures, do they share the same ideas or values?
  • Why is it important to understand the poems? different cultural backgrounds?
  • What would ignoring this lose?
  • What is gained by considering the cultural context?
  • How does this help you appreciate the poem?
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Social and Cultural Context