Time and space

In the previous lesson, you learned about how meaning is constructed, using the MAPS diagram (Meaning = Audience + Purpose + Style). This may be a good method for close reading, but what role does context play in analysing the meaning of a text? Two aspects of context to consider are: the context of interpretation (when and where readers read) and the context of composition (when and where writers write). This diagram, called 'CAMPS' (Context, Audience, Meaning, Purpose, Style) captures a better picture of how meaning is constructed. 

A1 poster: CAMPS

  1. Below is a photograph that was taken by Spencer Platt in 2006 of young Lebanese people driving through their neighbourhood in Beirut, looking at the state of their homes, after they were bombed by Israel. How might a photograph like this be misinterpreted without this information? Refer to the CAMPS diagram above in your discussion.

  2. Below are 5 'mystery texts'. For each mystery text discuss when, where, by whom and for what reasons you think they were written. After you have discussed your educated guesses for each text, reveal the context for each text. Why were your predictions accurate or inaccurate? How does your understanding of the world affect the interpretations of what you read? Download the cards, and play this game offline for even more fun!

    A6 cards: Mystery texts

    As with the commander of an army, or the leader of any enterprise, so it is with the mistress of a house. Her spirit will be seen through the whole establishment; and just in proportion as she performs her duties intelligently and thoroughly, so will her domestics follow in her path. Of all those acquirements, which more particularly belong in the feminine character, there are none which take a higher rank, in our estimation, than such as enter into a knowledge of household duties; for on these are perpetually dependent the happiness, comfort and well-being of a family.

    This extract is taken from Beeton's Book of Household Management by Isabella Beeton, first published in 1861, which was a bestselling book and cookbook on how to run a household in Victorian Britain.

    X: We need somebody over there that can get us some better plans than we've got. What I want is somebody that can lay up some plans to trap these guys and whup the hell out of them. Kill some of them, that's what I want to do. 

    Y: I’ll try and bring something back that will meet that objective.

    This is an extract from a recorded conversation in the White House between US President Lyndon B Johnson (X) and Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara (Y) taken on 10 March, 1964. They are talking about the war in Vietnam. 

    You may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.

    This is an extract from the Bible, Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT (New Living Translation).

    People always said that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

    This is an extract from My Story an autobiography by Rosa Parks, published in 1992, about her refusal to move to the back of a racially segregated bus on 1 December, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama.

    Dear friend,

    Friends have been urging me to write to you for the sake of humanity. But I have resisted their request, because of the feeling that any letter from me would be an impertinence. Something tells me that I must not calculate and that I must make my appeal for whatever it may be worth.

    It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to a savage state. Must you pay that price for an object however worthy it may appear to you to be? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success? Any way I anticipate your forgiveness, if I have erred in writing to you.

    I remain,

    Your sincere friend,


    Person 'X' is Mahatma Gandhi, a pacifist who led India in its struggle for independence from the British. He wrote this letter to Adolf Hitler on 23 July, 1939, shortly before the Nazis invaded Poland. 

  3. The 'CAMPS' approach for analysing texts, as introduced on this page, is known in literary theory as 'historical-biographical analysis'. In IB terms, this approach corresponds with the Area of Exploration (AoE) known as 'Time and Space'. The IB guide has provided 6 questions to help you explore texts, using this method. Find any text and share it with a classmates, discussing your answers to one or more of the following questions in relation to your text.
    • How can the cultural and historical context of a text influence the way it is written or received?
    • How do readers approach texts from times and cultures that are different from their own?
    • How can texts offer insight into another culture?
    • How can the meaning and impact of a text change over time?
    • How can texts reflect, represent or shape cultural practices?
    • How can language reflect people’s sense of identity or their place in society?
Last modified: Wednesday, 7 October 2020, 1:11 PM