Close Reading Paper

This paper closely analyzes a passage of one of the literary works we have read as a class.

Traditional ideas about close reading focus on the use of words, patterns, structure of sentences, and figurative language to carefully analyze the details of how a text functions to convey meaning.

This paper should show that you understand and can perform this traditional kind of close reading.

However, traditional approaches to close reading bracket out information outside the text, the historical / cultural context, the ideology, biases, theories, or ideas that influence the text, the author, the audience, the purposes and politics that situate the text and how it is understood. Thus traditional close reading is a weak and often ill-informed way to understand literature.

So your close reading needs to perform both -- it needs to show how the details of a textual passage are connected to issues beyond the text, to be a cultural close reading. How, for example, a passage from The Jungle makes an argument about the meat packing industry.

You can write this paper in the first person ("I") -- and it should be based in your careful study and observation. Though, of course, the paper is not a personal narrative, but an analysis. It is not a research paper, but it needs to show awareness of context beyond the text itself, demonstrate insight, and make connection to reading about food systems. Thus you can refer to or site other sources, but the focus of your writing should be on the passage.

A close reading might consider the purposes of a passages impact and "argument" by considering such things as:

  • word choice and emphasis
  • word order, sentences, punctuation
  • figurative language (metaphor, simile, metonomy, idioms, hyperbole, allusion, etc.)
  • descriptive language, dialogue, character development
  • & connections to other parts of the work, other texts and issues outside the work, themes and issues, historical, social, political contexts

Learn more about close reading from these websites:

1) close reading,
2) patterns,
3) cultural close reading.

Your paper should show careful writing, revision, and editing, and be at least 5 pages long.

Attached to your paper a copy of the entire passage you are analyzing.

Created by: allen.webb@wmich.edu
Revised Date: 1/14