PDF version of this assignment.

Due Date

  • Monday, February 15 by class to Blackboard

Project Overview

This assignment has two parts. For the first part of this assignment, you will write a close reading of Only Revolutions. This essay will be 4-5 double-spaced pages long (1400-1800 words). As with any close reading, your essay should present an original argument about Only Revolutions that is based on specific evidence from that text. As we will discuss in class, in a close reading paper you are arguing for your own interpretation of your chosen text. You are trying to answer the question: “so what?” So you’ve found a specific pattern in the text (as you have all done): 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? You need to provide your own argument in which you interpret Only Revolutions in some way.

The second part of this assignment consists of a reflection on close reading as a method of text analysis. This reflection will be about 2 double-spaced pages long (700-1000 words). You should answer the following questions in your reflection:

  • How would you describe close reading as a method of text analysis? Try to provide a definition of close reading here. You might use specific examples from your paper and/or from the process you undertook to “do” your close reading. You should answer this question in no more than one paragraph.
  • The rest of your reflection should focus on this question: What is the value of close reading as a method of text analysis? What does close reading allow us to see/do/know about literary texts? Why do it?

Assignment Details & Requirements

(1) Close Reading Essay: The requirements for your close reading essay are minimal:

  • 4-5 pages double-spaced (1400-1800 words)
  • Citations and format according to some established citation style (MLA and Chicago style are generally the easiest for text)
  • Argue for your own original interpretation of one aspect of Only Revolutions using specific evidence from the text to build your case.

(2) Close Reading Reflection: The requirements for the reflection are also minimal:

  • About 2 pages double-spaced (700-1000 words)
  • Citations and format according to some established citation style (MLA and Chicago style are generally the easiest for text)
  • While your responses to the reflection questions I provide above will necessarily be brief, I’m looking for evidence of deep, analytical engagement with your own writing and with close reading as a methodology in this part of the assignment. You still need to be specific and to use specific evidence to illustrate your points. You should feel free to quote yourself, the tip sheet we will discuss in class, the novel, etc. – whatever you need to support the points you are making.


This paper is worth 15% of your final grade in this course. You will be graded on the originality, specificity, and overall success of your argument. Do you make a compelling and effective case for your interpretation of your chosen text? You will also be graded on the specificity and scope of your reflection: Do you discuss specific aspects of close reading/your close reading paper? Do you make compelling, complex points about the value of close reading, and does your reflection present evidence of deep engagement with the question of its value as a methodology?


*You should organize your close reading 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.

*Only Revolutions, as you know, contains multitudes. As a result, you will need to think hard about how to narrow the topic of your close reading so that it’s manageable in 1400-1800 words. The more specific your topic, the better off you’ll be.

  • As step 3 of Lab 2 indicates, you should feel free to use the writing you do for your Lab 2 report in your close reading paper (probably in the reflection section), and vice versa. It’s ok if there is some overlap.