Interpreting epic texts – instructions – by Karin Silvina HIebaum

  1. Read and understand the text

The first step is to read and understand the text. Especially if the text is very extensive, even the first reading should be efficient and time-saving by paying attention to certain aspects in the text. It makes sense to make markings in the text that highlight important and interpretation-relevant points. Questions you can ask yourself to filter out the most important information are, for example:


How does the text begin and end? Are there any abnormalities and special features?

Which sections of meaning in terms of content can be found?

Which central persons appear? Which text passages provide information about these?

Are there conspicuous word fields and recurring motifs?

In addition to the markers, you can also add notes to the text so that you can work with it faster later.

  1. Formulate an introduction and the interpretation hypothesis

After reading the text, it is important and helpful to make an interpretation hypothesis. In this, you precisely formulate the interpretation conssumption gained from reading before the actual interpretation follows. We will write this in the introduction. There you give information about the author, the type of text, place and date of publication, title and topic.


When formulating an interpretation hypothesis, you summarize the content and an overall interpretation idea in one sentence.

This interpretation hypothesis serves as a frame of reference for your later interpretation. Some formulations can be helpful here:


The author (name) describes, illustrates/clarifies in his/her text (title) how/that (topic of the text) by showing/describeing how (short content description).

This interpretation hypothesis is taken up again at the end and can be supplemented or corrected.

  1. Summary

An interpretation includes a short summary that focuses on the core of the plot. It is written in the present tense and contains neither direct speech nor interpretive statements. The summary prevents you from concentrating too much on the content description later in the interpretation work.

  1. Contextualization

If you are dealing with an excerpt from a work, for example a novel excerpt, the text passage must be placed in the context of the entire work. You should ask yourself what meaning the text passage has for the whole work.

  1. Text description – Analysis

After the topic and the content have been described and summarized, the interpretation of the text can be prepared. This is followed by a text description, in which different points are taken into account:


Structure of the text

Time frame

Places of action

Narrative perspective



Motives and leitmotifs

Herewith you have carried out the analysis of the text.

  1. The text interpretation – interpretation

Finally, the results and findings of the previous steps are summarized in a final interpretation. You can orient yourself to the course of action of the text or make an aspect-oriented text interpretation. That is, you look at certain aspects. Some questions can be helpful in this step:


What does the author want to convey?

Which special features stand out?

Is the author a representative of an important epoch? Etc.

Here your interpretation hypothesis is used again, by referring to it. This can be confirmed or expanded or prove to be wrong.

  1. Final part: Opinion and evaluation

Finally, you should briefly summarize your results. At this point you can express your own opinion on the text and its statements and formulate a short conclusion.

Now you have learned the most important points that you have to consider when interpreting epic texts. Test your knowledge with our tasks and see what you have already understood!

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