Close Reading Paragraphs

Paper details: Writing Your Close Reading Paragraphs As we have worked on understanding, reviewing, and imagining the components of paragraphs, let’s now take the method of analysis called “close reading” and discuss how to use it in a paragraph. Read the material below and use the comments function to answer the Student Response Work in the last portion of this worksheet. You will need to have completed the Framing Quotations Activity, the First/Introductory/Opening Paragraphs document, and have read Gallop’s essay and “How to Do a Close Reading of a Text.” To begin, a couple notes about how we use the phrase “close reading”: a close reading is not just the act of “reading” something, as in the sense of what you do when you look over the words of a text. Close reading is engaged reading — while you are reading a text you are working to understand and uncover meanings in the text. Another point about how we use the phrase “close reading”: to “do” a close reading, as the worksheet for this week discusses, refers to the type of analysis you will write. This is because another way academics refer to their analyses is by calling them “readings.” So the phrase “close reading” refers to the analysis that you write — it’s the type of analysis you perform in writing. You write a close reading. With that hopefully clarified, now to the basic procedure: when we close read a text, we are doing two groups of actions. First we read the text to observe the details in the way the text is written. That means, as the “How to Do a Close Reading of a Text” describes, you need to read and take notes as you are reading, engaging with the text and looking for patterns in the language. Like Gallop discusses, you are looking for “minor” details rather than “main ideas.” This means looking at repeated words, strange or surprising usages of words, and phrases that stand out — for whatever reason. When reading a long text, like an essay or chapter, you want to look for patterns of repeated uses that might not have anything to do with the “point” or “argument” of the text. For Gallop, this is because her method of close reading is very much connected to the theory of psychoanalytic criticism, whereby critical readers examine texts for unconscious motives or undercurrents of meaning in the text itself. This is largely what Gallop means by setting aside the “big picture” or main idea of the text and instead looking at the minor details. It also helps get beyond the “instrumental” use of close reading that simply uses for proofreading. Instead, when we close read, we look for ways in which the author uses words that they don’t always explicitly comment on or seem to notice themselves. We notice a strange use of pronouns, for example, or a repeated word or name that seems important but which the author doesn’t fully explain. We take note of these things and trace them (that is, we follow how it appears throughout the text) and look for patterns. Patterns are ways in which a repeated word or phrase is used throughout a text that follow some sort of connection with each other. This might be that a word like “reading” is always modified by the same or similar adjectives, like “good” or “bad.” When we see a repeated word, we look for patterns in its use and we ask some general questions to help us further understand the pattern and look for more patterns. When you are close reading a text, ask yourself some of these questions as you read: Is the repeated word or phrase that you are tracing used with other words repeatedly? How so? Is the repeated word or phrase modified by words that associate it with positive or negative associations? Is the repeated word or phrase used by the author in positive, negative, or neutral ways? Or, does the author seem to associate the repeated word or phrase with positive or negative things/ideas? Does the writer seem to be intentionally repeating the word or phrase? Does the word or phrase repeat but show difference in each instance? The last question raises an important point about doing your close reading homework: you need to trace EVERY instance of the word or phrase. If you are looking at how the author uses personal pronouns (he, she, I, you, we, etc.) in their essay, then you need to look at EVERY instance of those words and notice how they are being used in each case. Where does the pattern you are looking for apply, and where does it not? Why does this matter? Because in the argument you will make in your close reading essay, you are trying to say something about the pattern you observe, but you need to be as precise as possible. If you say that the author associates “he” with negative notions of unequal gender relations, are you saying that this applies to EVERY instance of the word “he” in the essay? What about the instances where this doesn’t apply? This is because, when you write and make an argument, you must anticipate how your readers might respond, and the first response to an argument about the usage of a word is whether that applies in every instance, because a reader can simply re-read the source you are citing and look for counter-examples. Accounting for every instance of the word or phrase you are tracing helps you cover your bases. Next, we write about those details we have been tracing, making our observations central to the analysis we are going to provide to our readers. That means then, that your essay will need to demonstrate how you apply close reading to examples from the text. We do this through the framing quotations structure that was introduced earlier. Student Response Work: Take the example from the “How to Do a Close Reading of a Text.” The author discusses the short paragraphs from Loren Eiseley’s “The Hidden Teacher”. Notice how the author frames their quotations: “What do we notice in the previous passage? First, Eiseley tells us that the orb spider taught him a lesson, thus inviting us to consider what that lesson might be. What we’ll that larger question go for now and focus on particulars — we’re working inductively. In Eiselely’s next sentence, we find that this encounter ‘happened far away on a rainy morning in the West.’ This opening locates us in another time, another place, and has echoes of the traditional fairy tale opening: ‘Once upon a time…’ What does this mean? Why would Eiseley want to remind us of tales and myth? We don’t know yet, but its curious. We make a note of it. Details of language convince us of our location ‘in the West’ — gulch, arroyo, and buffalo grass. Beyond that, though, Eiseley calls the spider’s web ‘her universe’ and ‘the great wheel she inhabited,’ as in the great wheel of the heavens, the galaxies. By metaphor, then, the web becomes the universe, ‘spider universe.’ And the spider, ‘she,’ whose ‘senses did not extend beyond’ her universe, knows ‘the flutter of a trapped moth’s wing’ and hurries ‘to investigate her prey.’ Eiseley says he could see her ‘flinging her guidelines for signs of struggle.’ These details of language, and others, characterize the ‘owner’ of the web as thinking, feeling, string — a creature much like ourselves. But so what?” Use the comments function on this Google Document to answer the following questions: Looking at these two paragraphs from the sample of close reading, and looking back at the text from Eiseley that is being referenced, how would you identify how “framing quotations” are being used with close reading? What parts “frame” the quoted text in these paragraphs? Where do you identify “close reading” as you understand it, and how would you say the paragraphs are organized in order to present the writers’ close readiaqwng of the quoted text?

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