Acing Your Literature Interview: Questions You Should Prepare For and How to Craft Winning Answers

Whether you’re pursuing a position teaching literature or working in publishing, the interview process often involves fielding questions that delve into your literary knowledge and passions. Coming ready to discuss authors, books, poems, and plays you love, as well as your perspectives on the purpose and power of literature, is key to showcasing yourself as a strong candidate.

In this comprehensive guide we provide an overview of frequently asked literature interview questions along with tips and examples to help you develop thoughtful, impressive responses. With preparation and practice, you can step into your interview with confidence, ready to share the unique experiences and insights you would bring to the role.

Demonstrating Your Passion for Literature

Interviewers often start by asking open-ended questions to gauge your enthusiasm for literary studies and assess why you are drawn to work in this field. Be ready to discuss writings that excited your imagination and the aspects of literature you find most meaningful.

Potential Questions

  • What inspired your interest in literature?
  • Which books/poems/plays had the biggest impact on you growing up?
  • What do you find most rewarding about analyzing and discussing literature?

How to Respond

Share specific examples of impactful literary works from your youth and how they shaped your worldview and aspirations, Explain what you find intellectually stimulating about close study of texts Convey a lifelong passion for literature and a vision for how you could share that enthusiasm through teaching or publishing pursuits,

Sample Response

“I’ve been an avid reader and lover of literature since childhood, but my eyes were opened to deep textual analysis when we studied Shakespeare’s Hamlet in 9th grade. I found it so fascinating to unpack the multilayered meanings behind each word and phrase. Discussing the motivations and humanity of characters across different eras through literature allows us to better understand society and the human condition – that’s what excites me most about this field.”

Knowledge of Literary Time Periods and Movements

Being well-versed in major literary time frames, schools of thought, and associated authors is key. Interviewers will look for breadth of knowledge and understanding of how writings reflect their historical contexts.

Potential Questions

  • How has British literature evolved across different eras?
  • What are some key characteristics of American Romanticism?
  • Which authors do you associate with Transcendentalism?

How to Respond

When asked to discuss a particular movement or time period, highlight a few defining features or seminal writings. Mention influential authors and their notable works from that school of thought. Show how literary styles connect to societal events and moods of the time.

Sample Response

“The Transcendentalist movement arose in the 1830s as a response to rationalism, spurring a new literary style favoring idealism and individualism. Important Transcendentalist authors include Henry David Thoreau who wrote Walden about living simply in nature and Ralph Waldo Emerson known for essays like ‘Self-Reliance’. Their writings often involved finding spiritual meaning through intuition and immersion in the natural world.”

Literary Analysis Skills

Evaluating, interpreting, and discussing complex literary texts is central to most roles. Be ready to showcase your critical analysis skills by articulating your thoughts on an excerpt or poem provided during the interview.

Potential Questions

  • How would you analyze and discuss this short poem with students?
  • What meaning do you draw from this passage? How does it relate to the full work?

How to Respond

Read the excerpt closely, underlining pivotal words and key images that seem significant. Share your hypotheses about thematic meanings, commenting on the use of literary techniques like symbolism, irony, metaphors, and allusions. Cite specific text evidence to support your interpretations. Keep responses focused yet thought-provoking.

Sample Response

“This poem seems centered on the theme of impermanence with vivid language like ‘each petal falling like a tear drop’ and ‘fading flowers weep’. The petals could symbolize how time steals away youth and beauty. I think the weeping flowers are an allegory for people lamenting the passage of seasons and constant change in life. This sentiment ties closely to the novel’s messages about mortality and making the most of our fleeting time on earth.”

Teaching Literature to Diverse Students

For education roles, interviewers will probe your ability to make literature accessible and engaging for all students. Discuss how you would adapt analysis and meet varying needs in the classroom.

Potential Questions

  • How would you teach Shakespeare to students with no exposure to Elizabethan language?
  • How can literature provide value to students across backgrounds?

How to Respond

Emphasize using multimedia resources and translations alongside original texts to aid comprehension. Share ideas like examining timeless themes that connect to modern experiences. Convey your commitment to selecting diverse voices and finding texts that speak to students’ cultures and communities.

Sample Response

“I’m dedicated to ensuring literature resonates across backgrounds. For challenging works like Shakespeare, I’d use visuals, performance, and translations to unlock meaning. I aim to represent authors of different eras, abilities, origins, identities, and perspectives who can open students’ eyes to new worldviews. My goal as an educator is to make literature a gateway to discussing social issues, human commonalities, and the experiences we each bring to texts.”

Passion for Publishing

For publishing roles, be ready to discuss your literary interests and how they align with the company’s catalog and ethos. Convey deep enthusiasm for bringing authors’ works to wider audiences.

Potential Questions

  • What aspects of our imprint appeal to you?
  • How would you describe your reading tastes and interests?
  • Which books recently published with us have inspired you and why?

How to Respond

Do your research beforehand to gain a sense of the company’s style and spotlight books or authors they’ve published that truly resonate with your own passions. Share genres, topics, and writing styles that deeply interest you. Convey your vision to help amplify meaningful voices through publishing.

Sample Response

“I’ve long admired your poetry collections and anthologies – as a passionate poetry reader myself, I’d be thrilled to work on projects like ‘Contemporary Voices’ or ‘Groundbreaking LGBTQ Poets’. Your catalog aligns well with my interests in highlighting diverse, emerging voices. I’m drawn to works that use vivid language and intimate self-reflection to illuminate social issues, capture everyday experiences, and explore the human condition. I’d love to help bring such impactful writing to wider readership.”

Teamwork and Collaboration

Most literature careers involve collaboration and team exchanges around written works. Be ready to share your ability to discuss and cooperate on projects in a respectful manner.

Potential Questions

  • How would you respond if a colleague strongly disagreed with your literary analysis?
  • Tell us about a time you collaborated on a literature project or presentation.

How to Respond

Highlight skills like active listening, considering different perspectives, and compromising to incorporate diverse insights. Share an example of collaborating successfully on an analytical or creative literature assignment. Emphasize mutual respect for each person’s view to arrive at a stronger shared understanding.

Sample Response

“I value hearing diverse interpretations and consistently seek input from others to strengthen my analysis. As a research assistant, I worked with a professor analyzing 18th century poems. When we initially disagreed about our annotations, we had an open discussion finding textual support for each view. We ultimately synthesized our insights to produce a more nuanced, multidimensional reading. I aim for this collaborative, mutually enriching exchange of ideas with any literature project.”

Teaching Literature with Technology

Educators should be prepared to integrate technology and digital literature meaningfully into the classroom. Discuss your skills and ideas for multimedia analysis.

Potential Questions

  • How could you incorporate technology into literature studies?
  • Which multimedia tools could help make older texts more accessible?

How to Respond

Share ideas like utilizing tablets or computers for annotation exercises, leveraging YouTube to examine portrayals of literary works in popular culture, analyzing adaptations like graphic novels, or facilitating discussions on social media. Emphasize using technology to promote creativity, collaboration, and deeper engagement with texts.

Sample Response

“Technology opens exciting doors for analysis and hands-on learning. Students could annotate digital texts collaboratively using Google Docs and share diverse reactions on Padlet boards. To aid Shakespeare comprehension, we could compare film adaptations. I also envision literature projects with a digital creative component – perhaps composing social media profiles for characters from a play. The right multimedia tools enhance understanding and bring student perspectives directly into the analytical process.”

Fostering a Love of Reading

For teaching positions, interviewers want to ensure you can inspire students’ passion for literature inside and outside the classroom. Discuss how you would cultivate increased reading for pleasure.

Potential Questions

  • How would you motivate students to read independently?
  • What initiatives could promote reading engagement school-wide?

How to Respond

Share ideas like setting up a classroom or school library focused on student interests, hosting author visits or read-alouds, forming book clubs, and integrating independent reading time into each day. Convey your commitment to choice reading and your understanding

Interview with Lauren Weisberger

Searching for Author Interviews?

  • The New York Times has a collection of author interviews that can be found on ArtsBeat.
  • NPR: Author Interviews: NPR has interviews with famous authors and the NPR Book Tour, a weekly show and podcast where famous authors read from and talk about their work.
  • The Paris Review is a literary magazine that publishes new writing, art, and in-depth interviews with well-known writers.
  • Read it ForwardAuthor interviews and podcast.
  • Here is a list of all the in-depth author interviews that have been posted on Writers Write.

English Literature Interview at Cambridge | Oxford and Cambridge | A&J Education


What is a literature interview question?

Further Examples of Oxford English Literature interview questions: Was Shakespeare a rebel? Do you think there is any point to reading criticism? Why would one bother writing a poem?

Why do you choose an English literature interview question?

You may answer this question like: “I like English literature because it helps me to think critically about different complex topics with a different perspective. It broadens my horizons and enables me to develop transferable skills.

What is a literary interview?

interview given by (or in some cases also conducted by) a literary author. The literary. interview can be regarded as a hybrid genre for several reasons.

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