american classical essay essential interpretive philosophy reading ..

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Interpretive Reading occurs when we make sure we really understand the author's ideas.

What do I mean by looking for "patterns"? I mean that you should look at the examples you have collected and try to see what they might have in common with one another: the parallels among them will be your key to a thesis. A pattern might look perfectly consistent, or it might have irregularities and "glitches"—in either case, it can direct you to an argument. At this point you should try to decide whether you are most inclined to describe, evaluate, or interpret the work in your essay.


American classical essay essential interpretive …

If you can't summarize the argument in a single-sentence, go back and re-read the essay at Stage II: Interpretive Reading.

How the thesis works for you, the writer: the thesis clarifies and focuses what is to be said (it helps the writer discover what can be said about the subject). How the thesis works for your reader(s): the thesis signals what the paper or article is about, what point the writer will try to make. A general rule to memorize: . Your thesis may only emerge after doing some extended writing and note taking on the subject you want to discuss. For this reason, you should plan to write your introductory paragraph last or after doing a rough draft. The introduction is vital for the success of your essay; revise it several times. The important thing is to remember that you need to develop a thesis or main point, and this can happen by working out several trial theses as you look over the notes you take down as you begin writing.


Adorno, "The Essay as Form" in: Theodor W

The chapter in this book on "The Perspectives of Literary Criticism" will guide you in more detail through the specifics of the various current strategies (see box for brief definitions). For the purpose of writing an interpretive essay, though, it's a good idea to try to determine which strategies are operating in the class you are taking. Does the professor rely exclusively on a Marxist or a Freudian model of interpretation? Does she introduce elements of these schools of thought in combination with other strategies? Does he treat texts as products of their historical context, or approach them as timeless structures? When the instructor does "close readings" of texts, does she look (as formalists do) for unity and coherence of meaning, or does she point out (as deconstructionists do) ways in which parts of the text irreconcilably contradict one another? You need not use the same interpretive strategies your professor is using: remember, though, that you should try to be explicit about how you reach your conclusions on the text's meaning, especially if your strategy is different from that of your intended reader.

Adorno, The Adorno Reader, Blackwell Publishers 2000.

The best interpretive essays do three things: 1) They establish the strategy by which you, the essayist, choose to find meaning. They might do this explicitly, by saying something like "I propose to do a Marxist reading in order to examine the assumptions about class relations exhibited in the text," or they may be more subtle, announcing the strategy through certain key words. If, for example, an essay's thesis paragraph refers to "desire," "the mirror stage," and "libidinal impulses," it is almost certainly drawing on psychoanalytic modes of interpretation. 2) They "read," or interpret, the work in question according to that strategy, giving lots of specific examples from the text. And 3) They make a point or an argument. Simply paraphrasing the literary work in your own words is not the same as interpreting it, because a paraphrase will not answer the question, "so what?" You need to place the work's ideas in some context, in order to write persuasively about it. Being self-consciously explicit about your interpretive strategy can help you develop a thesis.