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Close Reading Essay

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When writing a close reading essay, you will want to accomplish four goals: First, you should summarize the text through your identification of its rhetorical situation or context including author background, purpose, audience, occasion for writing, medium type, and key terms used.

Second, you will want to explore tone through identification of imagery and diction as well as how this language is used within the context of the text.

Third, you should identify poetic form or structure in order to help readers understand what they are reading.

Finally, ask yourself how each of these elements contributes to your overall understanding of the text by exploring different literary elements with textual evidence from the excerpt.

What is a Close Reading Essay

A close reading essay is a piece of writing that focuses on one primary source. A close reading essay does not focus solely on the author’s purpose, but rather provides readers with an interpretation and analysis of the work and how it relates to other works in the field.

A close reading is an examination or evaluation of a text by carefully analyzing its language and structure to find an interpretation and analysis of the text. A close reading allows readers to gain new knowledge and understanding of a text without making inferences about its meaning; rather, readers make claims about what the writer is communicating through his or her use of language and structure. Therefore, a close reading essay provides the reader with analysis that does not rely on outside sources for support/justification. This type of essay may include information from multiple texts to provide evidence for claims made; however, it should still feature an explicit analysis of one primary source.

A close reading essay often falls into three categories: rhetorical situation, poetic form, and thematic content. For example, within the category of thematic content there might be specific types of themes that are analyzed, such as global themes, universal themes, and local/cultural themes. Analysis of a piece’s rhetorical situation might look at the use of specific elements within language, such as word choice, diction, tone, imagery, metaphor, or symbolism. An analysis of a piece’s poetic form might include an examination of its meter and rhyme scheme as well as the author’s intended effect on the reader through his or her use of these characteristics.

Close reading essays are often presented in paragraph form with each paragraph focused on a different category for analysis. Within each paragraph there will be specific claims about the chosen texts that are supported by evidence from the text itself; thus creating cohesion throughout the essay in terms of supporting evidence for claims made in each paragraph. Mentions of support from other texts should be implicit rather than explicit, meaning that the reader should not have to search outside the piece for support.

How to write a close reading essay

Close readings are often presented as MLA essays but can also take other forms (e.g., APA). A close reading essay may consist of four to six paragraphs with an introductory paragraph introducing the text and its author; three to five body paragraphs focused on analysis of literary elements; and a concluding paragraph that restates the thesis statement and provides closure to the essay by briefly summarizing what was discussed throughout.

Introduction: The introduction paragraph could include information about what you hope to gain from your close reading, how it aligns with course learning outcomes, why this text is important/ today, or who might benefit from reading the text.

Body Paragraphs: The body paragraphs should be focused on providing analysis of the texts that align with specific literary elements to discuss.

Some examples are rhetorical situation, poetic form, thematic content, symbolism/ imagery, tone/word choice/diction, style/formal elements (e.g., sentence structure), and character development/narrator point of view.

From your close readings you will also synthesize information about how other authors might have written the same piece or what they might have done differently; thus making connections between other works in addition to using evidence within the primary source for support throughout your essay.

Conclusion: The conclusion paragraph should briefly summarize what was discussed in each paragraph as well as restate your thesis statement. You can also include recommendations for further reading or how this text could be used in the classroom.

Close readings of texts are often tedious to write but make for powerful essays; readers should gain deeper insight into texts via your close analysis of what the author is communicating through his or her use of literary elements.

To make writing a close reading essay more manageable, ask yourself specific questions that can guide you through each paragraph (e.g., “How does the author’s choice of diction contribute to my understanding?” “What type of tone is conveyed through imagery?”).

Additionally, organize your thoughts before drafting your essay by outlining each paragraph and identifying what evidence you will use within the body paragraphs as well as how it aligns with different literary elements discussed.

Close readings do not require outside sources for support; therefore you should not include outside sources in the body of your essay, but instead reference them within your text (e.g., “For example” or “Another way to look at this is”) when making claims about the text.

Close reading essays are successful if they encourage readers to explore texts further while providing new insights on previously read pieces. By carefully considering rhetorical situation, poetic form, and other literary elements (with corresponding evidence), you will provide readers with a deeper understanding of what may have gone unnoticed previously.

Close Reading Essay Example   

An excellent close reading should invite the reader to delve into the literature further by encouraging active discourse surrounding texts explored in class that can then be applied to other topics encountered in the course.

For example, in Professor Dyson’s class I was tasked with writing close readings of texts that challenged my preconceived notions about race and gender identity. While reading Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place , I started to wonder how authors write about convincingly portraying male femininity in literature; what barriers do authors face when trying to correctly depict transgender individuals; and if there is a difference between an author writing from their personal experience or if they are explicitly telling their own story within fiction.

After exploring these thoughts by closely analyzing the text, I realized it would be beneficial for other courses if students were encouraged to read more widely across genres in order accomplish this goal—something I had not considered previously while allowing myself to become immersed in contemporary fiction only. Additionally, I would like to see professors push students to consider different authors’ views on race and gender identity (e.g., how the author is portraying these themes) as well as what they can learn from diverse authors representing different backgrounds—similar to Professor Dyson’s style of teaching. Through my close reading of Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place , I not only found out more about literature itself but also deepened my understanding of the course content by engaging with other disciplines beyond English class.

How to write a close reading essay effectively

In order to write a close reading essay that effectively invites discussion and comprehension of the literature on a deeper level than first read, you want to answer three key questions:

  1. Why does this piece matter?
  2. How does it work? and
  3. What do we gain from exploring this literature more deeply through multiple lenses including feminist criticism as well as queer theory?

An effective close reading requires thoughtful exploration rather than hasty generalizations about a work’s meaning.

Close readings rely on both authorial choices made during composition as well as reader responses elicited after publication so they can serve as an additional lens for understanding literature beyond criticism based on historical context.

An astute close reading of a poem will not only lead readers to question their initial interpretation but will also commence an inquiry into how this text is received by audiences across time periods, genders, races, cultures, and experiences .

Close Reading Essay Paragraph Example      

While the work may initially appear controversial given its subject matter including depictions of same-sex relationships between boys undertones about sexual abuse within Catholic seminaries , many critics praise Williams for his appealing depiction of the African American community in The Iceman through complex characters who defy stereotypes. By undertaking a close reading of this work, readers can better understand how the novel explores such themes as crime and punishment as well as loss and consequence .

Conclusion on writing a close reading essay

In order to write an effective close reading, you will want to answer five key questions:

1) How does the author establish the setting?

2) How do characters speak and behave in relation to their environment?

3) What imagery is used and how does it contribute to your overall understanding of the text?

4) How would you characterize tone through identification of sentiments and emotions?

5) Finally, what is poetic form or structure?

Now you know how to write a close reading essay. Do you need any essay writing help?

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