Literary And Cultural History

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“You can’t understand any text without a knowledge of its literary and cultural history.” Discuss
This essay will discuss the hypothesis that ‘you cannot understand any text to its fullest potential without at least a basic knowledge of its literary and cultural history’. There are three main areas of this discussion, the first being that you need some degree of knowledge of the texts cultural and literary history, whether that be a little or a lot, in order to understand what the author truly meant to the fullest potential, the second being that some texts can be read and enjoyed or appreciated without any knowledge of cultural or literary history, but they are unlikely to be understood with any great depth, and the reader is unlikely to take
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It has used My Last Duchess by Robert Browning to suggest that knowing about the context of a literary text can inhibit the readers ability to interpret the text in an individual way, Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee to suggest that a knowledge of literary and cultural history is not entirely necessary, but having knowledge of it is more useful than not, and finally A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift to suggest that knowledge of cultural and literary history is a necessity when reading a literary text. The main argument in this essay was the counter argument which went against the hypothesis to say that some texts can be read and understood on their own without any need for cultural or literary knowledge because of Barthes idea of the ‘Death of the Author ’. To finalise, from this essay the conclusion can be drawn that, whilst it is true for a lot of literary texts that they cannot be understood to their fullest potential without the reader having at least a basic understanding of the cultural and literary history of the text, this cannot be used as an all-inclusive statement. A more accurate statement to make would be that a knowledge of the literary and cultural history of a text may allow the reader to gain a greater, or just a different understanding of the
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