Close reading is a crucial skill in the analysis of any written text, including literature. Beth Burke defines “close reading” this way:
“Close reading is thoughtful, critical analysis of a text that focuses on significant details or patterns in order to develop a deep, precise understanding of the text’s form, craft, meanings, etc. It … directs the reader’s attention to the text itself.
“Close reading includes:
- Using short passages and excerpts
- Diving right into the text with limited pre-reading activities
- Focusing on the text itself
- Rereading deliberately
- Reading with a pencil
- Noticing things that are confusing
- Discussing the text with others …
- Responding to text-dependent questions”
“A Close Look at Close Reading.” <http://nieonline.com/tbtimes/downloads/CCSS_reading.pdf> (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. Retrieved 22 Mar. 2017.
- Carefully read “How to Do a Close Reading.” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.
- OPTIONAL: Watch“Close Reading Literature – by Rowan Professor Bruce Plourde” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.(approx. 7 min.)
- OPTIONAL: Read these examples (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. of close readings to get a sense of what a close reading might look like.
- OPTIONAL: Read this example of a close reading (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. and the professor’s response to it. This one is much longer than the examples in 3, above, and much longer than what I want you to write, but the professor’s comments at the end are especially worth reading.
- OPTIONAL: Refer to this guide to literary terms (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (or any other good guide) as necessary.
- Re-read “Recitatif.”
- Write a close reading of 200 to 300 words that starts with a main argument (thesis) that specifically ties the elements of this passage to the meaning that the passage conveys:
It really wasn’t bad, St. Bonny’s. The big girls on the second floor pushed us around now and then. But that was all. They wore lipstick and eyebrow pencil and wobbled their knees while they watched TV. Fifteen, sixteen, even, some of them were. They were put-out girls, scared runaways most of them. Poor little girls who fought their uncles off but looked tough to us, and mean. God did they look mean. The staff tried to keep them separate from the younger children, but sometimes they caught us watching them in the orchard where they played radios and danced with each other. They’d light out after us and pull our hair or twist our arms. We were scared of them, Roberta and me, but neither of us wanted the other one to know it. So we got a good list of dirty names we could shout back when we ran from them through the orchard. I used to dream a lot and almost always the orchard was there. Two acres, four maybe, of these little apple trees. Hundreds of them. Empty and crooked like beggar women when I first came to St. Bonny’s but fat with flowers when I left. I don’t know why I dreamt about that orchard so much. Nothing really happened there. Nothing all that important, I mean. Just the big girls dancing and playing the radio. Roberta and me watching. Maggie fell down there once. The kitchen woman with legs like parentheses. And the big girls laughed at her. We should have helped her up, I know, but we were scared of those girls with lipstick and eyebrow pencil. Maggie couldn’t talk. The kids said she had her tongue cut out, but I think she was just born that way: mute. She was old and sandy-colored and she worked in the kitchen. I don’t know if she was nice or not. I just remember her legs like parentheses and how she rocked when she walked. She worked from early in the morning till two o’clock, and if she was late, if she had too much cleaning and didn’t get out till two-fifteen or so, she’d cut through the orchard so she wouldn’t miss her bus and have to wait another hour. She wore this really stupid little hat—a kid’s hat with ear flaps—and she wasn’t much taller than we were. A really awful little hat. Even for a mute, it was dumb—dressing like a kid and never saying anything at all.
Your close reading must be a Microsoft Word document. Please get as close to MLA formatting as you can.
The close reading is due in this drop box by 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 24. I will accept late papers until 1:00 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26, but will deduct ten percentage points for every twenty-four hour period, or portion thereof, that the submission is late.
As always, all words and ideas that are not your own need to be cited with For references to “Recitatif,” you don’t need to provide in-text citations or a Works Cited page since it is obvious that you are talking about that story. You do not need any other sources; this is not a research paper. I would prefer that you focus just on the story, without using other sources. In fact, please do not read any external sources (web pages, articles, etc.) on “Recitatif.” I want you to practice analyzing a written text (a skill that is useful not just in literary studies but in all aspects of reading written texts).