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What Does Context In An Essay Means In Spanish


  1. #119-Apr-2009, 22:17

    What is CONTEXT?

    Can someone clearly explain what context mean? For example, context of an essay, context of a sentence. I know style is the way the essay is written, but what is context?
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  2. #219-Apr-2009, 22:21

    Re: What is CONTEXT?

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  3. #308-May-2009, 18:51

    Re: What is CONTEXT?

    Context is like a situation or the environment.
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  4. #408-May-2009, 19:03

    Re: What is CONTEXT?

    Dear stonecold:

    Yes. For example, when you speak you consider the context. You use different sets of words when hanging out with your friends in the park than you do when you are in a job interview. You also dress differently and use different body language.
    Context includes things like where something happens, when it happens, what has gone before, who the people are, how long they have known each other, whether they like and trust each other or not, why they are together, how they feel, et cetera.

    I hope this is helpful,

    Petra
    Originally Posted by stonecold
    Context is like a situation or the environment.
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Text and context

There is a choice that every teacher must make when presenting a literary text. Which one do you teach first: text or context? This lesson on Grace Nichols begins by introducing the author's life and continues with a focused reading of her poem. There are advantages and disadvantages to this method which we can represent in the following table:

  Advantage Disadvantage
Teaching context first You read the text with background knowledge. You may see more details than without a contextual understanding.  You may be reading with an agenda, which the author did not intend. You may be so busy looking for evidence to prove your hypothesis, that you forget to enjoy the text.
Teaching text first There are no presuppositions. You enjoy the work as a it is.  You may miss details that relate to the author's life. 

For many teachers, teaching context before text (as the Grace Nichols lesson does) simply does not feel right. Why do we have this gut feeling? If you stop to think about the nature of knowledge and acquiring knowledge, then many of us, even language teachers, hold the scientific method in high esteem. The scientific method says we should make observations before coming to conclusions instead of finding evidence to support our hypotheses. The Grace Nichols lesson encourages students to find evidence from the poem to support the hypothesis that Grace Nichols is an immigrant, journalist, teacher and and Christian. We are only looking for confirmation of what we know.

Does this matter? Should literature lessons follow the same principles as science lessons? Let us assume the following premise: Studying of literature is all about learning to look from new perspectives. This is to say that we have a duty to train our eyes to open wider, to see what we did not see before. We are in the business of becoming better noticers. We want students to be more perceptive. How do you sharpen their vision? By offering students a lens to look through (hence the heading 'Read through a lens'). Teaching context before text allows us to look through a lens.

In the end, every text is different. Some texts are very biographical, even though they are works of fiction. Other texts are works of art for art's sake. An author like Ian McEwan bases many of his works on articles that he reads in the newspaper and further research. They have nothing to do with him as a person. Other artists, however, have been known to distort the line between fiction and biography regularly. You might be surprised to learn that Grace Nichols is not very fat. Why do many readers of her poetry assume she is? In this case, background knowledge helps us understand that the poem is not autobiographical. 'Fat' might be a symbol for 'the other', or 'that which is not accepted.' This is a good example of how readers make contextual assumptions anyways, even without contextual knowledge. This proves that it is worth our while to find out more about an author, be it before or after reading their work.   

Wikipedia

Finally, you may be shocked to see reference to Wikipedia in this lesson. Many teachers see Wikipedia as an unreliable source. For the record, several studies have found Wikipedia as reliable as Britannica if not more reliable. That aside, many teachers still question the role that it should play in the classroom. For a teacher to Google, 'Grace Nichols' in front of the class and click on the first hit, Wikipedia, seems like a lack of creativity, planning and expertise. This is a sign of the times, that we are no longer the 'sage of the stage' but the 'guide on the side'.

First of all, students will not disrespect their teachers for conducting such basic research. In fact, they will see how handy it is to reach out frequently for quick answers to quick questions. We have a duty to show them that this is only the beginning of further research. Wikipedia is a starting point. The references of every Wikipedia entry are given at the bottom. Furthermore, it's good to discuss the nature of knowledge with students. If all you want to know is when the battle of Waterloo took place, Wikipedia is your answer. If you want to know why Napoleon lost at Waterloo, you will have to click through and spend more time reading.

Similarly our understanding of the context of composition can operate at diffrent levels, depending on what we want to achieve. If you are only interested in the author's place and year of birth, you will read his or her works with slightly more contextual understanding. If you want to know if Mark Twain was being racist by using the word 'nigger' in Huckleberry Finn, then you will have to learn more about his role in the American Civil War. The Wikipedia entry works well for a one-off lesson on Grace Nichols and the context of composition. If you are going to write about her on a written task 2 critical response, then you will want to go beyond the Wikipedia page.

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