Benefits of Close Reading
- To help you learn to make a text-based argument.
- To help you to understand what you are reading more fully.
- To help you enjoy poetry more by contributing to the co-creation of meaning—what Bressler refers to as a transactional relationship in which the text and reader condition each other to create meaning (10).
What is Close Reading?
- Is about observing and explaining textual details.
- Is a process that is perfected like any other skill.
- Is rooted in a systematic approach in establishing meaning, NOT based on general feelings or subjective conjecture.
- Identifies observable details that can easily be demonstrated by looking at the text.
- Is an analysis, not a summary.
Close Reading a Text
1. Approach the text with purpose.
- Treat material as academic text
- Consider how small details suggest more broad concepts/ideas
- Think about HOW understanding the meaning of a text happen (what elements of the poem help support meaning)
2. Read to understand: WHAT DOES THE TEXT SAY?
- Establish the general meaning of the text
- Write down any questions that stand out
3. Reread and Annotate: HOW DOES THE TEXT SAY IT?
Example an annotated text.
- Look for specifics
- Identify the speaker of the text and any other pronouns
- Circle and define any unfamiliar words
- Consider the structure and language—stylistic elements, figurative language, word choice, form, literary devices, etc.
- Underline parts that are confusing
- Identify reoccurring patterns
4. Identify the SUBJECT and the THEME.
The subject is what the poem is literally about. Think about one or two words you would use to describe a text; that is probably the text's subject.
- For example, what are possible subjects in Tony Harrison's "Marked with D." ?
The theme is the main point that the author is trying to make. Once you identify the subject, ask yourself SO WHAT? What is the main point that the author is trying to establish about the subject?
- What is a possible theme (the SO WHAT) of Harrison's poem?
5. Formulate an argument: WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
- After you've exhausted all potential meaning from the text and identified the subject and theme, use your annotations, questions, identifiable patterns, etc. from your close reading of the text to create a close reading argument, which will be the basis of your essay.
- Use ONLY those elements of the text that support your argument.
- How well you argue your point will be determined by all of the textual evidence you've gathered to support your claims.