What Is a Historical Approach to Literature?

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The historical approach to literature uses the social implications, cultural events and intellectual levels that produced a work in an attempt to understand it. Often, this requires the critic to know the biography and education level of the author. The main goal of this approach is to comprehend how the original readers of the work understood and intended it.

Some of the specific events typically used to examine a text with historical criticism include the time period and place in which the text was written, events within the text, specific adjectives, customs, people and the courses that are mentioned or implied within the text.

Historical criticism can also refer to mainstream scholarship in 18th century Biblical criticism. Modern historical criticism is deeply rooted in the Protestant Reformation, when humanity made great strides in understanding each other as people, and more importantly, the impact that a society has on the work of authors living in it.

Historical criticism has been broken into several different types of criticism, including source criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, tradition criticism and radical criticism.

Using the historical approach to literature often requires using biographies, reception studies, influence studies or researching newspapers and films about the time.