Literature and History are often intertwined. Studying the historical period in which a work of literature was written can often shed light on the values and concerns expressed by the author. On the other hand, sometimes we can gain a greater understanding of history by reading fictional accounts about it. Beyond enhancing our understanding of history, literature can sometimes help to shape history. Can you think of a book that was published that had such a powerful impact on society that it changed the way people thought or behaved? One such book I can think of is the Gutenberg Bible printed on Johann Gutenberg’s Press in 1454. It was the first substantial book ever printed in moveable type. Its wide spread dissemination changed the course of history. For the first time, people were able to obtain copies of the Bible for themselves. The availability of this text to ordinary people who were not members of the clergy led to an explosive increase in the rate of literacy all over Europe. For the first time, people were empowered to read and understand the Bible without the help of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Historians believe that the printing and distribution of the first Bible was one of the main factors in the subsequent Reformation Movement that undermined the power of the Catholic Church and created a separate Church with its own doctrine and practices, and this in turn led to the reshaping of the dynamics between the political and religious institutions of Europe. You can probably think of some modern examples of books that changed history.

For this assignment you are to choose one literary work from the assigned readings this week. Taking a husband by Ha Jin
In your essay, formulate a thesis that makes a claim about how history and literature interact in that story or poem. In the body of your essay, describe at least specific 3 ways in which the story or poem influence and shape each other. You may want to consider the following questions:
What historical events are reflected in the story or poem?
Does the author infuse these events with his own perspective?
Is there really such a thing as a pure documentary account of history, or are all written accounts of history by definition told from a certain perspective? Is it possible to be purely objective when writing history, or are all written accounts of history “a story?”

What historical research can I do to better understand the events or historical period being described in this story or poem?

Does the story or poem reflect the author’s own biography? What research can I do to understand how the author’s biography influenced his writing?
Is there any way in which the story or poem helps us to better understand the historical events or period it reflects?
Is there any way in which this story or poem might have influenced or shaped history?
In addition to your textbook, you should use at least 3 scholarly sources to support your claims. In this case, I would suggest that at least 1 or 2 of them should be historical accounts related to the literary work. Make sure that you cite your sources using APA format.

 

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