I think the subtext is rapidly becoming...text.
"Analyzing literary work as a product of cultural and intellectual history is the task, first, of determining what can be clearly deducible as coming directly out of the major issues existing at the time it was written, and, second, of deciding what is new and permanent--that is, of determining what as hbeen created by the author of the work from ideas prevalent at the time of composition" (Roberts 234).
Apologies for the long quote, but I think this is an important one, and I was loathe to trim it. OK, so I feel that historical context was something that came up for our class a lot when reading A Christmas Carol. We were all in tune with Dickens enough to understand some commentary that he'd made about the economy of his time. I believe that one reason we were all so quick to grasp this is because today our economy is not in much better shape. It's funny (in a very depressing, poverty-inducing way) how things circle back and become relevant again.
Something that Dr. Jerz pointed out in class when we questioned the reliability of the benevolent Victorian narrator was that it would be unconventional for the narrator to lie to the reader. Now, I won't say that the benevolent narrator has "fallen out of style," because I'm not well-read enough to make such a claim, but I will say that other types of narration are flourishing, and I don't believe our class is as familair with the conventions of the benevolent narrator as a reader of Dickens' time would be. This ignorance of convention could be seen as a type of historical context as well.
Without knowledge of historical context, it becomes increasingly difficult to gauge the meaning of a work. While I am not generally a fan of biographical analysis, there are some facts about the author's life that need to be considered in order to fully appreciate the work. Not acknowledging that a work about a corrupt government was written during a war, for example, is like driving with blinders on: you may eventually reach your destination, but you'll miss a lot of obvious exits on your way.