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  • Literature: Put the Literature In Context

    Topic Overview

    If you are just getting started, you may need a reference source that can provide an overview of a subject, introduce basic concepts, summarize key issues, define terms and cite factual information. They include encyclopedias, dictionaries & thesauri, biographical compilations, and atlases.


    Examining the Context of Literature

    In studying a literary work you may want to gather information that will provide greater context for the novel, short story, or poem.  This may include finding information about:

    • The time period in which the work was set.
    • Key social or psychological issues addressed in the work.
    • The time period in which the work was written.
    • The mindset of the author during the time the work was developed.

    For contextual analysis of a work, you may need to expand beyond the literature specific research tools.  Journal articles and books in other disciplines may provide an analysis of a time period, event, or social situation. These may also identify appropriate primary sources that may be useful for more in-depth research.

    Why Learn about the Author?

    To understand a literary work, sometimes it is important to understand the author. 

    • Where did the author grow up?  Are there values or cultural traditions associated with that region that may be seen in the author's work?
    • In what time period did the author live? Where there social issues or historial events that may have shaped the author's perspective?
    • What was the author's family life like? Are there psychological issues the author may have faced due to the structure of the author's childhood?
    • Where was the author educated? What kind of jobs did the author hold? Did the author travel extensively? Did the author have a spouse or children? Major events in the author's life may provide insight into the values, characters, or themes in a literary work. 

    Library Catalog

    Search for eBooks, videos, print books and more!


    Books in the Library

    You may find it helpful to do a little bit of research on other literature from the time period or era when your author lived and wrote.  Geographical areas, cultures, and historical events may also work. 

    For example:

    "literature" and "20th century" or

    "literature" and "romanticism" or

    "literature" and "Vietnam War" or

    "literature" and "Latin America"

    Try searching in the library catalog below to see what's available at the TNCC libraries.

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    Thomas Nelson is one of Virginia's Community Colleges, primarily serving the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson and Williamsburg, and the counties of James City and York.