I’ll be one of the first to admit that I was a tad nervous when first hearing about Investigation 2; what I’ve since dubbed, a “hyper-close reading” assignment. My brain immediately began analyzing the implications of this unorthodox task. One word into over twelve-hundred words? Yikes! The extreme unbalance of those two numbers triggered my brain’s “for real!?” response. This was most likely due to the fact that I haven’t performed many close readings before, except for the occasional close reading of a line or stanza from a poem. I’ve always been encouraged to read carefully in order to recognize patterns and to better understand the message being offered by an author, but never have I been asked to examine such a small piece of text over such a relatively large area. This obsessiveness of the minute and mundane reminds me of a reoccurring theme in the 90’s television show, Seinfeld. And in case you were wondering, I wasn’t that strange of a kid in the 90’s, my parents were just in control of the television remote during Seinfeld’s on-air existence. Although, I have to say that I do now weirdly enjoy it for the nostalgia it brings me.
(Above is a short clip from the 90’s television show, Seinfeld, in which one of the show’s main characters, Jerry, carefully analyzes the emphasis that’s placed on particular words of a comment in an attempt to better understand the context in which the comment was uttered)
After the initial shock, I realized later that Investigation 2 wasn’t that “out-of-the-box” after all. At first, I was a bit skeptical about the assignment’s relevance. However, I can now certainly see its usefulness as an exercise in critical thinking. The reason being is that, it causes one to analyze a reading in a way that doesn’t allow conclusions to be drawn directly from what the text literally says. Instead, one must think critically about the author’s thought process, reasoning, positions, and motives. In other words, context becomes everything. The reason for the plot becomes as important, if not more important, than the plot itself. I think diving into an assignment of this kind is much less intimidating with that kept in mind.