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When your teachers or professors ask you to analyze a literary text, they often look for something frequently called close reading.Close reading is deep analysis of how a literary text works; it is both a reading process and something you include in a literary analysis paper, though in a refined form.
In effect, you are putting the author’s choices under a microscope.
The process of close reading should produce a lot of questions.
We can use them as a guide for our own as we go forward with our close reading. When you look at a text, observe how the author has arranged it.
After thinking about local questions, we have to zoom out. If it is a novel, is it written in the first person? If it is a short story, why did the author choose to write short-form fiction instead of a novel or novella?
Frost seems to do something fairly standard in the octave in presenting a situation; however, the turn Frost makes is not to resolution, but to questions and uncertainty.
A white spider sitting on a white flower has killed a white moth.This guide imagines you are sitting down to read a text for the first time on your way to developing an argument about a text and writing a paper.To give one example of how to do this, we will read the poem “Design” by famous American poet Robert Frost and attend to four major components of literary texts: subject, form, word choice (diction), and theme.Looking at the word choice of a text helps us “dig in” ever more deeply.If you are reading something longer, are there certain words that come up again and again? While you are going through this process, it is best for you to assume that every word is important—again, you can decide whether something is really important later.Most poems follow rules or principles of form; even free verse poems are marked by the author’s choices in line breaks, rhythm, and rhyme—even if none of these exists, which is a notable choice in itself.Here’s an example of thinking through these elements in “Design.” In “Design,” Frost chooses an Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnet form: fourteen lines in iambic pentameter consisting of an octave (a stanza of eight lines) and a sestet (a stanza of six lines).Close reading is a process of finding as much information as you can in order form to as many questions as you can.When it is time to write your paper and formalize your close reading, you will sort through your work to figure out what is most convincing and helpful to the argument you hope to make and, conversely, what seems like a stretch.If you are not making marks directly on, in, and beside the text, be sure to note line numbers or even quote portions of the text so you have enough context to remember what you found interesting. It’s easy to think of novels and stories as having plots, but sometimes it helps to think of poetry as having a kind of plot as well.Design I found a dimpled spider, fat and white, On a white heal-all, holding up a moth Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth— Assorted characters of death and blight Mixed ready to begin the morning right, Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth— A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth, And dead wings carried like a paper kite. When you examine the subject of a text, you want to develop some preliminary ideas about the text and make sure you understand its major concerns before you dig deeper.