One way to think about this approach is through this recent statement by Carol Geary Schneider, the president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities: The real key to high-quality learning is the student’s mastery of the capacities fundamental to evidence-based inquiry and reasoning: identifying and framing a significant question, organizing the analysis, generating and evaluating evidence, developing an argument, taking into account the likely objections, and then subjecting one’s own judgment to the verdict of others.
But this line, frequently attributed to Isaac Asimov, gets to the heart of these assignments more directly: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not Eureka! ) but rather, ‘hmm…that’s funny…’” For me, then, an interpretive problem is a question that we might wrestle with or disagree about as readers; to that extent, puzzling out the solution to an interpretive problem might enhance the aesthetic experience of reading that text and open up new insights into the text.
Similarly important is the material there that describes the reader of an essay on a literary text.
For questions about grammar and mechanics (including guidelines about documentation conventions), see the Purdue University Online Writing Lab, which has a terrific selection of writing resources and instructional material about writing.
This web site – developed by The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – also contains information about writing that is relevant to the essay assignments in my courses.
Please note that this assignment is the one in the course that asks you for your best, most polished writing.
The better option, of course, would have been to teach students how to write an interpretive essay or to teach students how to write a literary analysis.
Interpretive Problem Approaches to Literary Analysis The assignments sketched out in this area provide an interlocking set of possibilities for what I’m calling here an “interpretive-problem approach” to writing about literature.