Text Analysis: provide an overview of the historical and cultural context

Text Analysis 1

Here is your first text analysis. Start by reading the passage below. Your tasks in this assignment are as follows:

to identify the work from which the passage was drawn,
to provide an overview of the historical and cultural context in which the work first appeared,
to situate the passage in the context of the work from which it was drawn,
to explain the importance of the passage to the work as a whole, and
to critique the passage and the work.
Follow the instructions below when writing and submitting for text analysis.


Not even Americans, subjected unto a Christian prince, are to be punished either in body or in goods, for not embracing our faith and worship. If they are persuaded that they please God in observing the rites of their own country, and that they shall obtain happiness by that means, they are to be left unto God and themselves. Let us trace this matter to the bottom. Thus it is: an inconsiderable and weak number of Christians, destitute of every thing, arrive in a pagan country; these foreigners beseech the inhabitants, by the bowels of humanity, that they would succor them with the necessaries of life; those necessaries are given them, habitations are granted, and they all join together, and grow into one people. The Christian religion by this means takes root in that country, and spreads itself; but does not suddenly grow the strongest… Neither pagans there, nor any dissenting Christians here, can with any right be deprived of their worldly goods by the predominating faction of a church-court.

Preparing your analysis

(1) When you identify a passage, assume that your reader is unfamiliar with the work from which it was drawn. You may wish to include a few historical facts in order to orient your reader. However, do not include anything that is not relevant to the passage under consideration. And finally, don’t cite a passage merely by referring to a page number. Assume that your reader’s edition of the work is not the same as yours. It is more useful to say "This passage is found in Part I, Chapter 4 of…" or words to that effect.

(2) When you discuss the cultural and historical context in which the work was written, keep in mind that there is a reason why the work appeared when it did. Moreover, the work reflects a wide range of beliefs, suppositions, ideas, etc., that were prevalent at a particular time. Identify these as succinctly as possible, in order to give the reader a better understanding of why the work is an important part of our heritage.

(3) When you are situating a passage in context, again assume that your reader is unfamiliar with the work (or, at least, that he has not read it recently). Provide a little background on the work. Discuss the overall structure of the work. Discuss the action or the arguments leading up to the passage you are analyzing as well as what is said immediately afterwards. One paragraph should suffice.

(4) Similarly, when you are explaining the importance of the passage to the work as a whole, bear in mind that your professor did not choose the various passages at random. Rather, they were chosen because they occur at critical junctures in the work’s dénouement, or because they are good examples of the style of prose for which the author is well-known, or because they aptly summarize one or more important arguments the author is trying to make, or because they incite debate over the author’s intentions, or whatever. Explain to your reader exactly what it is about the passage that makes it stand out.

(5) Your fifth task–critiquing a passage and a work–is the most important part of the assignment. Your analysis is to be a serious, sober, reasoned, insightful and dispassionate analysis of a work’s importance. Abject flattery, self-righteous diatribes, polemics, or other vituperation will be out of place. Since this is the most important part of your analysis, make sure that you have left yourself enough space to complete the task at hand. Be as succinct as possible in writing parts one, two, three and four.

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