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Friday, March 15, 2013

What is Context?

Seriously, I want to know this. Context could be sort of a general what's-in-the-air sort of thing. So it is significant, contextually, that Lorca would have been performed with Brecht and Stein in 1951. Or is context a stronger thing, a general interpretive framework that provides a strong hermeneutics for understanding what is going on? Like the cliché "nothing occurs in a vacuum" that I will scream if I see in another scholarly paper. You might have to accumulate a lot of the ambient kind of context in a thick description in order to make a stronger determinative statement about "context." A choice of context is a choice of interpretative framework. I can pull three or four out of a million things in the air and say that that is the context.

It helps when there is a dictatorship. For example, if there is a dictatorship, then that becomes the horizon of interpretation almost automatically. Franco Spain is Franco's. There are other big contextual constructs like that, the counter-reformation, for example.

3 comments:

Andrew Shields said...

And there are many artists who resist the contextualizations in which others consider their work: "I don't want to be seen as X" (often "just X").

Vance Maverick said...

Sometimes people will say e.g. "You have to consider the context" -- which is true enough, but is also a rhetorical trick to impose their own choice of context. Or to invoke and reinforce the vague shared sense of what does and doesn't count as context.

Andrew Shields said...

"You have to consider the context" as a rhetorical trick: thanks, Vince. A less aggressive way of bringing up a possible connection: "Have you considered X?"