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A cultural context analysis works much the same as the historical context analysis, except that your focus is less on the institutional and societal changes and more on the specific beliefs and practices of the people represented in the text.  A cultural context analysis requires both a process of identification of different cultural groups and an analysis of the beliefs and practices of that group or groups.  An analysis of a short story from Africa, for example, would be examine the native beliefs and cultural practices represented, as well as the cultural legacy shared with the European nation that had colonized that country.  Some things that such an analysis would cover are:

  • Religious beliefs and rituals
  • Gender roles and/or family structures
  • Languages spoken/taught
  • Ethnic groups and cultures


In order to do a successful cultural context analysis it is important to identify at least three aspects of thecultural context that are important to understanding the literary work.  This type of approach requires students to research the identified culture (s) and apply that research to the literary text or texts.  Using this information, students then identify at least three elements of the cultural context in relation to a major theme of the work.


After you have identified your theme, you will need to generate a thesis.  Choose several examples from the literary work relating to the theme that you have chosen (be sure to include examples from different points throughout the text and not just one section).  Considering your examples, what key message or messages emerge about the topic selected?  You should now be ready to construct a working thesis that conveys to your reader the message that you have identified as a main theme of the story.


Each of the points relating your thesis should now be discussed.  You should consider how the author has used word choice, symbolism, repetition, etc. in order to express the theme identified in your examples.  Consider all of the ways that the cultural events and descriptions in the story support this theme, and be sure to include discussion of any points in which the theme appears to be contradicted.


Summarize your findings.  Remind the reader of your key points and support and clearly state the findings of your analysis – your interpretation of the meaning of the text in relation to the cultural context.



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