Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Example of close reading

Hello everyone,

Many of you received comments on your papers about how you're argument is not actually doing a close analysis of the text/film. We'd like to point you to examples of close analysis in Writing Analytically. In particular, both Goodbye Lenin! (pages 185-189) and Las Meninas (pages 179-181) are examples of exploratory drafts that contain passages of close analysis. Please note that these are not polished drafts, but they should give you a sense of the level of detail and the kinds of interpretive moves that a good close analysis represents (especially paragraphs 10 and 11 in Goodbye Lenin).

If you are one of the students who is struggling with how to do a close analysis, think about how these examples identify particular details in order to go beyond a simple summary of the work. There's a temptation that I've seen in a lot of your work to merely summarize actions and events in the work to support an argument about message or thematic stucture. Instead we are asking you to go beyond this face value analysis of a text/film and actually discover evidence for your claims within the work's formal decisions or derived from the specific experience of your encounter with the text/film. One way of thinking about this kind of approach is to ask yourself: "How else could the author or filmmaker have presented this material? What has been revealed and what has been left unsaid? What decisions has the author/filmmaker made in choosing to present a particular detail in a particular way?"

Writing Analytically (p24) stresses that ideas should emerge from your experience of the text/film itself:

Having ideas is dependent on allowing yourself to notice things in your subject that you want to understand better rather than glossing over things with a quick and too easy understanding. This relates, of course, to what we have said so far about how attending to conclusions but not their causes prevents us from thinking and seeing.

Rather than diving straight into a scene in isolation from the rest of the work, your reading of this particular scene should be informed by how it fits into the larger structure of the work as a whole. Is it a turning point? Is it an anomaly? Is it representative of some larger pattern or thematic opposition?



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