Lords of Discipline Close Reading

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What is Close Reading?

It means paying especially close attention to what is printed on the page. It is a much more subtle and complex process than the term might suggest. Not only reading and understanding the meanings of the individual printed words; it also involves making yourself sensitive to all the nuances and connotations of language as it is used by skilled writers.  This can mean anything from a work’s particular vocabulary, sentence construction, and imagery, to the themes that are being dealt with, the way in which the story is being told, and the view of the world that it offers. It involves almost everything from the smallest linguistic items to the largest issues of literary understanding and judgement.

Why are Close Reading Skills Important?

It is the building block for larger analysis. Your thoughts evolve not from someone else’s truth about the reading, but from your own observations. The more closely you can observe, the more original and exact your ideas will be. To begin your close reading, ask yourself several specific questions about the passage. The following questions are not a formula, but a starting point for your own thoughts. When you arrive at some answers, you are ready to organize and write. You should organize your close reading like any other kind of essay, paragraph by paragraph, but you can arrange it any way you like.

What are some Stratigies for Conducting a Close read?

Linguistic
You pay especially close attention to the surface linguistic elements of the text – that is, to aspects of vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. You might also note such things as figures of speech or any other features which contribute to the writer’s individual style.

Semantic
You take account at a deeper level of what the words mean – that is, what information they yield up, what meanings they denote and connote.

Structural
You note the possible relationships between words within the text – and this might include items from either the linguistic or semantic types of reading.

Cultural
You note the relationship of any elements of the text to things outside it. These might be other pieces of writing by the same author, or other writings of the same type by different writers. They might be items of social or cultural history, or even other academic disciplines which might seem relevant, such as philosophy or psychology.

Mansfield’s, Katherine. “What Is Close Reading? – Guidance Notes.” Mantex. Mantex. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. http://www.mantex.co.uk/2009/09/14/what-is-close-reading-guidance-notes/.
Wheeler, Dr. “Close Reading of a Literary Passage.” Close Reading of a Literary Passage. Carson Newman, 12 Jan. 2012. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/reading_lit.html.
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