Guide to Literary Terms

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Context

Context - the part of a written (or spoken) statement which leads up to, follows, and specifies the meaning of that statement. The context of a group of words is nearly always very intimately connected as to throw light upon not only the meaning of individual words, but also the sense and purpose of an entire work.

The term is taken from the Latin contextus which is from contexere, meaning “to weave together.”

Understanding the context in which a work of literature was produced often leads to a deeper understanding of the work itself; for instance, understanding the social and economic position of women in the early Nineteenth Century can provide a greater insight into the characterizations of women in Jane Austen’s novels.