Close Reading Exercise

Close Reading Exercise
ENGL 120
Word Count: 1200 (+/- 10%)
Select a short passage for close-reading from ‘The Second Coming,’ ‘The Journey of the Magi,’ ‘The
Dead’, ‘Magic for Beginners’,
The Drover’s Wife or Northanger Abbey. This should be 2-4 stanzas / verse
paragraphs of poetry or about 10-20 lines of prose or 1–3pages of dialogue and stage direction in a play.
Most importantly, more important than arbitrary constraints of length, there must be a coherent reason
why this passage hangs together as something you can close read: it conveys a sustained meaning
forinstance
Then approach it one of two ways:
Option one:
The purpose of this essay is to get you focused on reading the figurative operations of language within a given
passage (or stanza/selected lines of a poem). You should look for a pattern if you can or focus on an interpretive
puzzle (two or three aspects or “tropes” of the text that don’t fit together easily).
This option is best if you have a sense of an argument you want to make about the text and feel confident
with figurative language.
From here, write out your problem/pattern/puzzle etcetera as a question or thesis statement. Include it in
your essay at the appropriate time. If you feel more comfortable doing so, embolden it for your marker to
see.
Option two:
Write responses to one of the prompts/questions provided below (you are still expected principally to focus on
the figurative operations of language):
1) In either “The Second Coming,” or the “Journey of the Magi,” what sense of the tropes and concerns of
modernism are conveyed and how?
2) Joyce’s “The Dead,” has been said to convey the musicality of Irish language and culture. Does it and
if so how? How does this relate to other themes discussed in the lectures?
3) The final passage of “The Dead,” has been famously said to convey a sense of epiphany. Locating your
sense of the epiphany in the passage, discuss the complexities of epiphany in relation to the wider
themes of the story.
4) How does
Northanger Abbey use any one of the following to produce meaning: verbal irony,
foreshadowing?
5) How does “Magic for Beginners” convey a sense of an internal (diegetic) world to the story? How does
it problematize the cohesion of this diegetic world?
6) How does the
Drover’s Wife convey a vision of kin and Country.
This option is best if you are unsure about what you want to argue but be sure to ground your argument
in patterns in figurative language.
Note for revision and structuring
Your essay must, according to the rubric have a thesis statement. A succinct summary of what it asserts, argues,
defends and (with development), concludes. This thesis statement is a bold defensible claim. So while you
answer the question be sure you signal to yourself and the reader what you mean your thesis to be.