What is a contextual analysis (Links to an external site.)?

Chosen Context: Primary Text- Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Prompt: Write a contextual analysis of one of the course texts in Module 2. Your goal is to write an essay of at least 1000 words, so keep your topic narrow and focused.
The final draft of this assignment is due by 11:59 pm on Thursday, March 17.
What is a contextual analysis (Links to an external site.)?
A contextual analysis situates a work of literature in its historical or cultural context and explains how the way the work is written gains new meaning through an understanding of the context.
There are two challenging components of this analysis. First, you will have to do some research. You will need to use at least two secondary scholarly sources in your essay to provide supporting information about your chosen context.
Second, you will have to look closely at how the work of literature is written to conduct your analysis. Here are some questions from the website linked above to consider in your analysis of the primary text. In conducting your own analysis, you might attempt to answer only one or two, or possibly all, of these questions. They are here to get you thinking about the author’s writing style in relation to your chosen context.
What is the author’s style in the text? Characterize the author’s language and rhetoric.
What does the way the text is written tell us about the intended audience of the text?
Why did the author write this text? And why did the author write this text in this particular way, as opposed to other ways in which the text might have been written?
Is this text written in response to a contemporary incident or event?
Is this text about the author’s more general observation(s) about human affairs or experiences?
Is this text about a definable set of cultural circumstances?
Is this text intended as some sort of call to action? If so, how and for whom?
Is this text intended as some sort of call to reflection and consideration rather than direct action?
Are there any outside circumstances that affected the creation and reception of the text?
Your essay should include the following components:
a proper heading
a title
page numbers
double-spaced in a standard 12-point font
1000 words or more with this structure:
an introductory paragraph with a thesis statement
an organized body of one or more paragraphs that analyzes the work through your chosen context with specific examples and thoughtful insights and includes
at least three correctly documented direct quotations from the course text
at least one direct quotation from two secondary scholarly sources (two total) (You may use one of the sources provided by the instructor on the Modules page.)
a conclusion paragraph that addresses the significance of situating the literary work in your chosen context (How is this a new or valuable insight? Why do we care?)
a properly formatted works cited page of at least three sources: the course text and the two secondary scholarly sources
A standard writing rubric Download standard writing rubric will be used to evaluate the final draft of this assignment.
Scholarly Sources
How do I determine if a source is scholarly? (Links to an external site.)
Here is a link to JSTOR (Links to an external site.), the Clemson library database I recommend. You will need to login to use it.
The scholarly articles in Module 2 you may use to fulfill the scholarly article requirement for this assignment:
“Gothic Femininities” Download “Gothic Femininities”
“American Gothic” Download “American Gothic”
“Motherhood as Resistance” Download “Motherhood as Resistance”
“The Rest Cure” (Links to an external site.)
“Biographical and Historical Contexts” Download “Biographical and Historical Contexts”for The Turn of the Screw
“Gender Criticism” and “He took no notice of her” Download “Gender Criticism” and “He took no notice of her”(Two separate scholarly articles in one pdf document)
The Cult of True Womanhood.pdf Download The Cult of True Womanhood.pdf
Works Cited Entries for pdfs
When you cite from pdfs of articles I’ve posted on the Modules page, to make things easier, use the following format:
Author Last Name, Author First Name. “Title of Article.” pdf.
For example:
Milbank, Alison. “Gothic Femininities.” pdf.
And for in-text citations, use this format:
(Author Last Name Page Number if it appears on the pdf)
“Heluvre is a quotation” (Milbank 156).

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