Context page deals with the "real" part of your project. The
Filmic Context page, which you will do next, will deal with the "reel"
The purpose of the Historical Context page is to give users the "facts" and a way to do their own study of the history element.
The Historical Context page has 2 parts:
- An encyclopedia-type essay with the "facts" of the historical subject matter
- A list of resources for studying the historical subject matter
with substantial annotations (usually longer than review
annotations) and broken down into three sub-categories:
The Historical Essay
- You will do three original essays on your film: an historical essay, a scene analysis, and an issue essay.
- Each of these three original essays will have a different slant.
- In the scene analysis essay, for instance, think of yourself as an "English major," you are an "analyzer."
- In this Historical Context essay, however, think of yourself as an "historian," as an encyclopedia writer.
- In other words, think of your purpose as giving the "facts" in clear and concise fashion. Think of your viewpoint as "objective." Think of your role as "recorder" (rather than, say, the "analyzer" you are in the scene essay.)
- Think of your audience as mainly looking to you for the "facts" rather than your "personal opinion." Think of them wanting you to establish what can be known as "real."
- You may and should have a personal slant, a personal opinion, a personal view on your historical subject. But subdue those things here as much as possible. Exercise those options in the other two original essays. Here write as "cleanly" as possible and provide the resources for your audience to study the topic on their own and to form their own personal opinions.
- Clear, straightforward organization probably will be a key. The first decision to make is no doubt where to start your essay and where to finish. What is your inaugural moment and your terminating moment? These may be easy choices if you are dealing with the life of a person, but historical events may be enmeshed in other historical events, and in that case the decision may be somewhat difficult. After that initial decision, however, for most of you chronology will provide the structure for the body of the essay.
- Style: Good history writing of this sort is lively and interesting, but clarity and transmission of facts is your main goal, so this is usually not the place for verbal pyrotechnics or other stylistic features that overly call attention to yourself as the writer. It's hard to divorce content from style, but content is the most important thing here.
- Length will vary. You do what you have to do depending on your subject. But we would guess 750-1250 words is about right on average.
- There may already be encyclopedia-type essays on your subject. Don't just copy them. Try to improve on them.
The List of Resources
- The distinction between reference material on the Historical Context page and the Filmic Context page is not always firm and clear, but the purpose of the former is to focus on the "facts" upon which the film is based and the purpose of the latter to focus on the "fiction" the film makes with those facts.
- At times, though, that distinction is tough to make, and, thus, it's alright if some reference material is listed under both Historical Context and Filmic Context.
- The annotations should cover the book/article/video/website's
- Purpose (the author's thesis, main point or points, etc.)
- Plan (what content is covered; how the argument proceeds)
- Value/use (what the piece is good for, why a user would want it)
- Help a user to decide whether the item is worth a look for his or her research project.
- Length: the review annotations are generally 50-150 words; in most cases make the annotations longer for the Historical Context and Filmic Context parts, say, 100-200 words. Toward the size of the synopses. In fact, think of your purpose as giving a healthy synopsis of the "argument" of your materials.
- Include all relevant historical material that you find, but you do not have to annotate everything. Annotate higher priority material as much as your time permits. The rest will simply be in a "see also" category as with the un-annotated reviews.
- Your search will likely turn up books, articles, and videos not available locally, in which case you must try to obtain them through Inter-Library Loan. This can take time, so you must plan to submit requests early.
- Use MLA format for the citations (this Duke web site is good for format examples: http://www.lib.duke.edu/libguide/works_cited.htm
- The Historical Context list and the Filmic Context list are each broken down into three parts:
- There is no magic number of entries; some subjects may be truly huge, others slight; you will need to look in as many places and at as much material as you can and then make reasoned judgments about high priority items to annotate. But, again, include everything relevant that you find even though you don't annotate it.
- This piece of the project will take a good bit of time; start early and work steady.
- Put all important and striking quotes into sound bites right away. It's easier to do this now than to come back at the end. Think of including at least three sound bites from each of your annotated items. But the more the merrier. Include as many bites as the sources yield and your time allows. There is no such thing as too many.
Research Resources at
- Lehigh University ASA catalog (esp subject headings for your historical topic): thus, begin “at home” in the old-fashioned bricks-and-mortar library
- Lehigh University databases http://library.lehigh.edu/content/database_finder/
- MLA Bibliography
- Jstor: The Scholarly Journal Archive
- Project MUSE: Scholarly Journals Online
- America: History and Life
- New York Times Historical Newspapers
- American History in Video
- The selected and general bibliography here on the RAH site
- Wikipedia: we still must treat the content of Wikipedia entries with caution, but they can be useful for their references and bibliographies
- Use Google or some similarly broad search engine for online material