How do you critically appreciate a text?

Expert Answers
carolynosborne eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Critical text appreciation is based on the analysis of text from a number of different perspectives. While novices at the art of analysis might think that thinking about the details of a text might make the text boring, in fact, text analysis helps with appreciating a work even more (or, appreciating it in the first place, if the work seems mysterious or boring). 

Context is important, so the first questions to ask include:

  • When and where was this text produced?
  • How does it relate to texts and other art forms that came before it?
  • How does it relate to text/art that came afterwards?
  • Who is the author?
  • How does the text fit into the author's life?

Beyond that, it is important to look at writing techniques. Here are some questions to think about:

  • What genre is the text in? Purpose of text?
  • Does the text keep the rules of genre or break them (usually texts do some of both)?
  • What are the characteristics of that genre? Given the historical period of the text, what were the characteristics of that genre when the text was written?
  • What are literary devices used in the text (imagery, analogy, sounds of words, etc.)?
  • How do textual characteristics contribute to the meanings you find in the text? Do they support or undermine them?

You'll find yourself learning a lot about a text through thinking through these questions. The next time you encounter a text like it or perhaps by the same author, you will be able to use what you learned here to understand and appreciate that text better.