Interpreting Texts


Interpreting texts can be done in several ways. Explaining what it means, citing examples or relating to it, are taught in the classrooms. Interpreting texts is expressing ideas and writing about it, as in the film review, concert review, advertisement/product review or book review, among others.

Critics, writers, teachers and students including the public do express their own interpretations: personal or analytical.

In college, the most common forms of interpretive essay assignment is to write analytical essays about reading assignments in Humanities and Social Science subjects.

I always tell my students to reread the texts, several times. Every time you read the story, book, or essay bring you new discovery and insight. Reading gives different interpretations, as long as you can defend your answer.

Take these hints from the noted writer and professor Toby Fulwiler:

1. In selecting a text to interpret ask yourself these questions.

Can this text be read in more than one way?
With what reading do I most agree?
Where are the passages in the text that support this reading?

2. Personal interpretation

In writing from a personal interpretation - the interpreter uses his or her belief and
experiences. The texts and experiences are expressed and examined relating to each other.

3. Analytical interpretation - In doing this interpretation, writers often focus on the content and deliberately leave themselves, the interpreters, in the background. They minimize personal presence and bias, but focus on the text.

4.You may include the following points

An interview of the text, identifying author, title and genre
Briefly summarize the whole text
A description of format structure
A description of the author's point of view

Summary of the social, historical or cultural context in which the work was written is often needed. An assertion or thesis about what the texts mean must be supported with clear facts or significant personal interpretations.

When I did concert reviews way back the 90's and in the early millennium (2000's), I made sure to know the background of the artists and what songs become relevant to the audience and season, hence I related them to culture.

When I visited painting exhibits, I made sure I knew the theme of the event and reviewed about painters and art history. Making familiar with the medium the artist used to paint/make/write his creation add to be useful.

There are many ways how to appreciate and interpret art and texts. Some kind of enchantment in finding out something from reading (and other art forms) challenge the audience and let them appreciate the value of text, art, and/or work.

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