Chapter 9

Biographical and Historical Approach
*We will be able to analyze the way in
which a work of literature reflects the
heritage, traditions, attitudes, and beliefs
of its author.
* Discuss with your partner:
* How is knowing something about an author (in other
words, their personal history) helpful in understanding
why they write about a topic?
* Book: “Catch the Moon” by Judith Ortiz Cofer
* How is knowing the historical events that have taken
place before a text is written helpful when we analyze
why an author has chosen to write about that topic?
* Book: “War” by Sebastian Junger
*What do we already know about:
*Myths and Legends
*When reading a text, the ability to consider the
biographical, historical and cultural context in
which it was written enhances understanding
and gives the reader a complete picture of the
author’s purpose.
*Academic Vocabulary:
*Biographical Approach: using the writer’s life
experiences as we analyze and respond to a text
* Ex. How would knowing that the author of Night is a Holocaust
survivor effect your reading of this story?
*Historical Approach: Using the time period in which a
text is written to analyze and respond to a text
* Ex. How would knowing events from WWII help you understand a
story about the Holocaust?
*Historical Context: the non-fictional historical events
(both recent and distant) that influence the attitudes
and beliefs of characters in a text
*Academic Vocabulary:
*Myths: stories that are basically religious in nature and
closely linked to a society
*Legends: stories based on actual historical events,
however they sometimes contain fictional magical
*CFU: Turn to your partner, and identify a myth or legend
you are familiar with.
*Archetypal: typical character traits that define
a specific type of character
*Ex. The character of Prince Charming; the
“damsel in distress” character; the old wise man
*Primary Source: a firsthand account or original
material that has not been edited or interpreted
by any other writer.
*Secondary Source: contains information that is
retold, summarized, or interpreted by a writer
* Imagine a person reads the “Emancipation Proclamation”
* CFU: Does anyone know what this document did?
* (It was the document President Lincoln signed freeing the
* In order to understand the significance of that document,
the reader would have to have some historical context.
* CFU: What were the attitudes of U.S. citizens in the North
and the South when Lincoln signed this document?
* For example, the reader would need to know that the issue
of slavery divided the states, that Lincoln knew this
document would lead to the succession of the Southern
states, and that the U.S. cannot claim to be a “free” country
as long as slavery was legal.
* Without this knowledge, the reader does not understand fully
how important this document was or how it helped shape the
history of the U.S.
* Imagine a person reads “Everyday Use” or “The Bill of Rights.”
* Choose one text or the other
“Everyday Use”
Answer the following question:
What information about the author
Will help the reader to better
understand the story? What is her
ethnicity? What is her heritage? Do
any of these appear in the story?
Alice Walker’s biography can be found
on Pg. 83
“The Bill of Rights”
What events took place before the
writing of this document that might
have lead the founding fathers to
include such things as “freedom of
speech”, “freedom of religion”, or
“right to bear arms” in the “Bill of