Approaches to Literary Interpretation

A story is not a problem to be solved, but a continent to be explored.
Dr. Randy Laist

Using the Cinderella story, Dr. Randy Laist of Goodwin College discusses some approaches to literary interpretation, including Existential, Religious, Feminist, Marxist, and Historical. Dr. Laist’s clear, succinct explanations will help you understand how a single book can be read so differently by different people. He makes these important points:

  • The significance we discover in a story will usually depend on what aspects of the story we choose to emphasize and how we interpret them.
  • What we emphasize will usually be determined by the assumptions we make, not only about stories, but about the world in general.
  • What we find in a story is usually what we were looking for, whether we knew we were looking for it or not.

So — when you encounter a literary interpretation of a book you’ve read, and you can’t imagine how someone could read it in that way, the three sentences above explain why. We read through the lens of what we believe, understand, and have experienced, and others do the same. This is why reading in a book group or classroom is such fun — as you talk about a work, you see things in it that you might have otherwise never noticed.

Approaches to Literary Interpretation is the third video in this series by Dr. Laist. Be sure to also watch the other two videos! Summary and Analysis: Jack and Jill and Literary Analysis: Elements of Narrative.