Close reading


This essay is a close reading of the text. What is a close reading? A close reading is an analysis that synthesizes and reflects on the various aspects, components, elements (whatever you want to call them) of a text. It’s not necessarily exhaustive, as it may focus on a particular aspect or set of aspects, but it must be deep and thorough. Some ideas on close reading can be found here:; and here: Your essay will develop an idea. Your idea is a thesis which is not simply verifiable but is arguable and which, we hope, could convince an intelligent reader. An example of this kind of argument: you could argue that Homer’s Odyssey continues to inform modern heroic storytelling by supplying narrative tropes which modern stories still reenact, whether participating in the Homeric tradition consciously or unconsciously. For example, in The Lion King, the hero must suffer exile, a visit to the underworld (the elephant graveyard), and a battle with usurpers to regain his home and honor. He reunites with his faithful companion (Penelope/Nala) through prophetic/divine intervention (Pallas Athena/Rafiki). The Lion King is an Odyssey remake! Can Back to the Future, for example, be seen to follow the same mold? How about Hook (the son must recognize the father here, just like in the Odyssey)? A close reading would identify these moments and examine them and their function in the narrative. What do they draw on? How do they create or resolve tension in the work? Are they allegorical or referential in some way? Is there a rhythm to the work, a series of repetitions? You can do this for any cultural artifact. For another example, check out this video on oranges in The Godfather ( This is the beginning of a close reading. Pay close attention to the grammar, style, orthography (make sure you have subject/verb agreement, gender agreement, proper subordination) and the cogent argument, thorough analysis, responsible rhetorical and conceptual ‘stone turning.’ That is, did you read very closely? Did you elaborate a complete vision of the work and attend to its several elements? Did you cover your bases? Is your argument original?

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