What knowledge of art can be gained by focusing attention on its social, cultural or historical context? Particularly regarding ballroom dancing in "Master Harold"... and the Boys.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the question might be a bit more broadened that you anticipate.  It seems to me that the question is asking about the contexts in which it is created and how this enhances the overall meaning of it.  Art is not composed in a vaccuum apart from the world of the artist.  While the artist might not bound to integrate their own vision of reality in their compositions, they are influenced by what they experience in their social, cultural, or historical conditions and they choose to what extent this is reflected in their work.  Large or small, the present of these contexts are in the work and the question for us, the students, is to be able to assess how these conditions impact the work and gain a greater understanding of it.  For example, in Fugard's work, how does the context of South African apartheid impact the work and one's understanding of it?  What might the work be saying about a stratified system based on the conition of race and racial inferiority?  How does this impact the relationships human beings have towards one another?  The lessons on dance might then be seen as a part of a larger statement to be made.  These might be questions to be asked that are based on the conditions that surround the work and how understanding of it is enhanced because of them.

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"MASTER HAROLD" . . . and the Boys

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