Close Reading of Two Texts Close Reading and Concepts in American Literature, 1867-1996

Close Reading of Two Texts Close Reading and Concepts in American Literature, 1867-1996

Description: This semester we have practiced close reading, the foundational method of literary study, as a way to slow down our interpretive pace, to show our thought process, and to build evidence-based arguments about our course readings. For the Final you will have the opportunity to build a coherent, focused argument in the shape of a formal essay that brings together two readings from two different weeks of the semester. This assignment will require you to define a thesis and to support that thesis with evidence from the passage/text of your choice. Additionally, you will link your thesis and support to a concept (or lens of analysis) that we have discussed so far this semester.

Process: Select two texts that weve read this semester that interest you. Then, choose one passage from each text that you would like to bring together for your close reading (for a total of two passages). Think about the passages together: are they similar thematically? Do they address a similar subject matter? Do they address a similar subject matter, but with different approaches? Begin your paper by making a claim for what the two passages are doing together. You may select a concept or theme weve discusses this semester in connection with one or more of our readings, but you also have the option of developing your own concept or theme that connects both readings.  Within the first paragraph of your paper, make an argument about the two texts, based on the concept youve defined that connects these two passages. Then, continue with the steps of a close reading, as outlined in Week 2. Here is where defining the concept is helpful/essential: you can tie your lexicon, explanations, and argument to the concept. Your concept is the bridge between the two texts, and your paper should explicitly show how you are making the connections between the two.

(1)    Choose one passage each from two course texts(for a total of 2 passages)

The New Colossus Poem by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!


The Open Boat by Stephen Crane

It would be difficult to describe the subtle brotherhood of men that was here established on the seas. No one said that it was so. No one mentioned it. But it dwelt in the boat, and each man felt it warm him. They were a captain, an, oiler, a cook, and a correspondent, and they were friends, friends in a more curiously iron-bound degree than may be common. The hurt captain, lying against the water-jar in the bow, spoke always in a low voice and calmly, but he could never command a more ready and swiftly obedient crew than the motley three of the dingey. It was more than a mere recognition of what was best for the common safety. There was surely in it a quality that was personal and heartfelt. And after this devotion to the commander of the boat there was this comradeship that the correspondent, for instance, who had been taught to be cynical of men, knew even at the time was the best experience of his life. But no one said that it was so. No one mentioned it.

(2) Retype or otherwise indicate passage choices before beginning paper; this does not count toward page length.

(3) Identify the concept that you will use as your analytic lens.

(4) Develop a thesis that you pose early in your paper (ideally, within the first paragraph). Your thesis should use the first-person pronoun I to show your reader your unique intervention. Example: Based on these two passages, I argue that although a century separates their work, Sarah Winnemucca and Louise Erdrich both show the cultural resilience of the Native American tribal community.

(5) For the rest of your paper, follow the steps of a close reading, showing your reader how each point supports your thesis. Those steps are Understanding Noticing the lexicon Explaining your findings Connecting your passage to other moments in the text, to support your thesis.

(6) Conclude by thinking of the larger implications and significance of your argument. Do not just restate your thesis. Questions to think about when drafting a conclusion: What does this detailed argument about the passages reveal about the world in which the author wrote? What does this concept tell us about literature of the time periods in which these authors are writing?