Particularly when teaching writing, I’ve often compared a text to a map. My thoughts generally run like this:
When your reader lands on a fresh page of prose, they haven’t got a clue what landscape they are standing on; it’s up to us as writers to orientate them, and our language forms the contour lines and the key to the world we are mapping out for them. We have to make careful decisions about what and how much to show – how far they can see; how quickly they can recognise signs, symbols and the direction of travel. We need to contextualise what they’re reading, even if that is the relationship between this page and the previous one, or this paragraph and the one before it, because context is key to avoiding the dizzy nausea that can turn a reader off.
Conversely, when teaching close reading, it’s all very well spotting WHAT a writer is trying to do. By the time pupils hit KS3 at Y7 they can all spot a simile: a symbol on the map. But how many students, even when we get up to the heights of Y13 can really read the map, talk about WHY the simile was employed; WHY that particular comparison was chosen?
Context, in it’s broader sense, is everything …