Essay 1: Close Reading
A close reading is a study of the detail in a short section of a text and an explanation of how that detail and that section are related to the entire text. In thinking about literature, you should always refer back to the detail of a text as well as to its grander effects. The essay requires critical thinking and concise writing. Each of the texts listed below considers themes concerning nature. Choose one text as the subject of your close reading:
Virginia Woolf, The Death of the Moth
E.B. White, Once More to the Lake
Kate Chopin, The Storm
Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers Gardens
Joy Harjo, Remember
William Carlos Williams, This is Just to Say, The Red Wheelbarrow
Lynda Hull, Insect Life of Florida
Tommy Pico, Nature Poem
Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars
Prewriting Process
1. Read or reread the text taking notes while reading. Look for patterns, tensions, or questions that emerge in what you notice.
2. Choose a short passage that you can focus on. The passage should be a key section of the work, andshould contain concrete imagery. Consider whether this passage reinforces, adds a new dimension, or subverts the themes as worked out in other parts of the work? How? Why? How does this section help you to understand the entire piece?
3. Consider how the concrete imagery in the section is working. Does the image work as a symbol in some way? Does it affect your emotions or intellect or understanding of the story?
4. Carefully comb through all the words, using the margins to record your thoughts. Note the figures of speech. Look at word choice. Pay attention to the details.
5. Decide on a thesis, create a structure for your paper that will support that thesis, and then use evidence from the text to support your main points.
Writing Process
1. Quote the passage directly, set off at the top of the page like an epigraph.
2. Create a title that captures the heart of your thesis.
3. Briefly summarize the passage.
4. Place this section within the context of the whole text. Why is it significant to the plot, character development, or other concerns? If it is comic relief, say so. Does it recapitulate, perhaps, in a miniature, the major plot? Or does it perhaps indicate a counter-movement, an uneasiness, even contradicting major themes?
5. In separate paragraphs, discuss your most interesting discoveries in the areas of themes, details, vocabulary, language/style, structure, progress/movement, and metaphors. Outline the interesting ideas you have discovered, quoting the significant relevant lineseven quoting lines outside your passage if you need to make connections. You should always be moving toward revealing why that particular evidence points toward a specific judgment about the text as a whole. Continually ask: Is my passage reinforcing, adding a new dimension to, or subverting what I know in general about the text?
6. Conclusion. A close reading usually ends with a paragraph that opens up and points towards even grander potential meanings for the passage. In other words, dont just repeat everything you said. J
Three pages, double-spaced, 750 words.
MLA style
No outside sources required. Works Cited page still needed for the work you are analyzing.

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