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ENGL 3010: Introduction to Literary Studies: Biographical/Historical


This approach begins with the insight that literature that understanding an author’s life can help readers more thoroughly comprehend his or her work.  Anyone who reads the biography of a writer quickly sees how much an author’s experience shapes—both directly and indirectly—what he or she creates. Reading that biography will also change (and usually deepen) our response to the work. Sometimes even knowing a single important fact illuminates our reading of a poem or story.


This approach seeks to understand a literary work by investigating the social, cultural, and intellectual context that produced it—a context that may include the artist’s biography.  A key goal for historical critics is to understand the effect of a literary work upon its original readers.