Contextual Knowledge and Literary Analysis

By Simon Ryan.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

A well-recognised feature in learning and teaching in the humanities is the variety in contextual knowledge possessed by students. Interpreting literary and other texts requires background information. In the age of the internet the issue becomes one of selection. How do students in the humanities determine the relevance of contextual information? Relevance Theory suggests that a cognitive economy is at work involving a trade off between effort and effect. Relevance determinations in developing learners often fix on topical contiguities, thus valuing information that seems relevant but will not aid the development of deeper interpretations. This paper will suggest that expert learners in the humanities develop metacognitive strategies that inhibit a premature closure of interpretation.

Keywords: Relevance, Humanities, Literature

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.201-210. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 612.953KB).

Dr. Simon Ryan

Lecturer, Arts and Sciences, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Associate Professor Simon Ryan lectures in Literature at the Australian Catholic University. I am the author of The Cartographic Eye: How Explorers Saw Australia. My interests include the literature of British exploration and colonialism. More recently I have become interested in teaching and learning issues in the Humanities. I am currently completed a Masters degree in Higher Education, in which I examine how students judge the relevance of background or contextual information when interpreting a literary work.


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