The Life of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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World Literature II Interpretative Essay

Throughout the semester, you have explored many pieces of literature in journal entries. Now you will have the opportunity to deepen your interpretation of one of these pieces by drafting and revising a 1250 word essay.

To interpret a literary work requires patience, a willingness to read and re-read material slowly, carefully. Successive readings allow one to mine a work for details, for example word choice and images that often go unnoticed initially. An effective interpretation articulates the meaning of certain details, separately and comparatively, in its final form. Because of this selection process, literary interpretations provide close readings of specific works in order to advance a claim about its overall significance.

The Literary Interpretation due on 3/18 should include the following parts: an opening paragraph that introduces the topic, provides an overview of the literary work (what is it about?) and includes a thesis that asserts the central claim of the essay; several body paragraphs that develop the thesis with generalizations, textual details, and explanatory passages; and a conclusion that rephrases the main idea of the essay and leaves the reader with a lasting impression. All essays should adopt MLA format, conform to standard grammar and include a Works Cited Page. Below are several prompts around which to compose your Interpretative Essay. These prompts should spark some ideas, but it’s up to you to shape pre-writing into a polished essay.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau begins Confessions with the following statement: “This is the only portrait of a man, painted exactly according to nature and in all of its truth, that exists and will probably ever exist” (57). How does Rousseau set out to accomplish this aim in the pages that follow? Consider moments when he returns to this idea—rendering a life “according to nature”—as well as when he recounts his personal experience.

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