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English - Pre 1914 Poetry

Social, cultural & historical context

When studying pre-1914 poetry, the background to the poem can be particularly important.

There are three main elements:


Social Context

The kind of society that existed when the poem was written.

The way the theme, setting and characters of the poems are influenced by the social background.


Cultural Context

The ideas, philosophies, cultural ideas that existed when the poem was written.

The beliefs, behaviour, interests and attitudes of people at the time the poems were written.


Historical Context

The historical period that the poem was written in.

Events and discoveries etc. that were important and influential in that period.

Features of pre-1914 poetry:

Some of the language used might be archaic (contain old-fashioned words that we may not understand or use today).

The poem might deal with ideas or themes that relate to the time when it was written.

The poem might contain references to events, people, beliefs and attitudes, that meant something to the reader when the poem was written, but are now hard to understand.

The poetic style might be unusual or unfamiliar.

You need to research the points above.

Poetic Form

There are particular poetic forms that frequently occur in pre-1914 poetry:

The sonnet

The ballad

The elegy

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