Over the last four posts, we’ve explored the process of close reading in some detail. Despite my insistence on breaking close reading down into identifiable (yet artificial) steps, it’s not a mechanistic, rule-bound process. There are many different ways to do close reading. The best close readings are explanations of a thought process that moves seamlessly from small details to larger issues. They show that specific smaller details – the ones the author of the close reading (i.e. YOU) has chosen to highlight as important – are key to understanding a text as a whole. There’s a certain art to the technique, and you only get better with practice.

Your task for this post is to put all of this together and reflect on what you’ve learned. First, read through this close reading tip sheet to get a sense of how close reading works in practice. Then, read through the “Surprise,” “Observation,” and “Disobedience” sections of Paul Graham’s online essay on essay writing. Finally, read through your first post, where you did a close reading of Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.” Using what you now know about close reading, critique this post. Your critique should address these questions:

  • What do you do well in this post?
  • What needs work?
  • Why does it need work? Be specific.
  • How specifically could you improve it?
  • What is the goal of close reading as a methodology, as you see it? Why do it?

This post should be about 400-600 words. While your responses to the above questions will necessarily be brief, I’m looking for evidence of deep, analytical engagement with your own writing and with close reading as a methodology. You should feel free to quote yourself, the tip sheet, the story, etc – whatever you need to support the points you are making.