• Friday, March 3 by 10 pm to Blackboard

You will write a close reading of any of the literary texts we have read so far in class (choose one). This can be a revision and expansion of your short close reading paper if you choose, or you may choose a different text/topic to write about. As with your short close reading paper, doing a “close reading” means you will make an original argument defending your interpretation of the text you are writing about, based on specific evidence from that text. In a close reading paper, you are trying to answer the question: “so what?” So you’ve found a specific pattern in the text: so what? What does this pattern mean, in terms of the text as a whole? Why/how is it important to our understanding of the text as a whole?

Details & Requirements

  • 6-7 pages double-spaced (2100-2500 words)
  • Citations and format according to some established citation style (MLA and Chicago style are generally the easiest for text. See the assignment page on our course site for links to online resources about how to format your paper using these styles).
  • Argue for your own original interpretation of your chosen text using specific evidence from the text to build your case.
  • I encourage you to incorporate some of the secondary sources we have read in class into your paper, although you are not required to do so.


  • Writing a successful close reading paper takes time and practice. Doing it well is more difficult than it seems. If you’re asking the right kinds of questions of your chosen text, your analysis should – in a clear and structured way – bring out and emphasize the complexity of the text you are writing about, not “solve” or do away with this complexity. Our goal here is to invite complexity, NOT necessarily to make things simpler. If you do this, it will be difficult to stay within the word limit because you will have so much to say. Decide what you can reasonably tackle in 6-7 pages. On the other hand, if you find that you are struggling to write 2000 words about your text, that is likely an indication that you are not digging deep enough, that you need to ask different kinds of questions, or that you should shift the focus of your argument and/or idea. If you find yourself in this position, I strongly recommend you come talk to me. I can help you.

  • You should organize your essay around one central idea, as opposed to providing a list of claims and observations. Remain aware of the need to make specific claims rather than vague generalizations, building your argument around specific passages, pages, scenes, or other textual elements. I expect you to present an original thesis and to work closely through the text on your own, NOT to synthesize and then regurgitate interpretations we have worked through in class.


This paper is worth 30% of your final grade in this course. It will be graded on an A-F scale. You will be graded on the complexity, originality, specificity, and overall success of your argument, as well as on the overall presentation and polish of your writing. Do you make a compelling and effective case for your interpretation of your chosen text? Does your argument invite and engage with complexity? Is it specific? Is it original to you, or have we already worked through it entirely together in class? Is it an argument about the text’s meaning (or one of its meanings), rather than a collection of loosely organized summaries or observations about the text? Is your writing clear, polished and effectively organized?

For more information on the rubric I will use to assess your graded assignments, see the relevant section in the course syllabus.

Because doing this kind of writing is difficult and takes practice to do well, you will have the chance to revise this paper for a potentially higher grade if you choose.