Interpreting Literary Meaning: How to Use Text to Guide Your Interpretation

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  • 0:49 How to Use the Text
  • 1:19 Key Elements
  • 3:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katie Surber

Katie has a Master's degree in English and has taught college level classes for ten years.

In this lesson, we will discuss how to find and interpret literary meaning in writings. The lesson will focus on using the text to find key elements to guide your interpretation.

What Did the Author Mean?

Have you ever finished reading a novel or short story and thought: 'What did the author mean?' Or maybe you asked yourself: 'Why did the author write this?' It is natural for us to ask these questions when we read. Part of the reading process is to make connections to the writing, which means you spend time interpreting it.

What does it mean to interpret literature? When you interpret literature, you are trying to find the meaning and significance of the story. You are asking yourself both what the text means and why it is important.

One of the best ways to interpret a writing is to use the text as a guide. When you use the text as a guide, you are examining the main elements of the story and seeing how they relate to each other to find the meaning and importance of the story.

How to Use the Text

To begin to find the meaning of the text, you must first start to analyze it. Analyzing begins before you start to read. You should spend time asking yourself what you already know about the author, looking through any introductory notes, and then skimming the material for a first impression. This first step will help you begin to feel connected to the literature because you will learn about the author and make connections to what you may already know about the topic.

Key Elements

After you preview the writing, you are now ready to start to use the text to find its meaning. When you use the text to find the meaning, you look at the elements and details that the author includes. There are many elements to literature, but some key ones to use as part of the analysis are:

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