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Close reading
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In literary criticism, close reading is the careful, sustained interpretation of a brief passage of a text. A close reading emphasizes the single and the particular over the general, effected by close attention to individual words, the syntax, and the order in which the sentences unfold ideas, as the reader scans the line of text.In contemporary English practice, the technique of close reading was pioneered by I. A. Richards and his student William Empson; close reading then was technically developed by the American New Critics of the mid-twentieth century, especially by Cleanth Brooks, John Crowe Ransom, and Allen Tate, and so became the fundamental method of modern criticism. Close reading was developed further in the work of Professor Louise Rosenblatt. In French criticism, close reading is similar to explication de texte, the tradition of textual interpretation in literary study, as proposed by Gustave Lanson.As an analytical technique, close reading compares and contrasts the concept of distant reading, the technique for “understanding literature, not by studying particular texts, but by aggregating and analyzing massive amounts of data”, as described, by Kathryn Schulz, in “What is Distant Reading?”, an article about the literary scholar Franco Moretti."What is Distant Reading?" | New York Times article by Kathryn Schulz June 24, 2011

Background

Literary close reading and commentaries have extensive precedent in the exegesis of religious texts, and more broadly, hermeneutics of ancient works. For example, Pazand, a genre of middle Persian literature, refers to the Zend (literally: 'commentary'/'translation') texts that offer explanation and close reading of the Avesta, the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism. The scriptural commentaries of the Talmud offer a commonly cited early predecessor to close reading. In Islamic studies, the close reading of the Quran has flourished and produced an immense corpus. But the closest religious analogy to contemporary literary close reading, and the principal historical connection with its birth, is the rise of the higher criticism, and the evolution of textual criticism of the Bible in Germany in the late eighteenth century.

Examples

A truly attentive close reading of a two-hundred-word poem might be thousands of words long without exhausting the possibilities for observation and insight. To take an even more extreme example, Jacques Derrida's essay Ulysses Gramophone, which J. Hillis Miller describes as a "hyperbolic, extravagant... explosion" of the technique of close reading,Miller, J. Hillis, "Derrida and literature" in Jacques Derrida and the Humanities: A Critical Reader, Tom Cohen, ed. devotes more than eighty pages to an interpretation of the word "yes" in James Joyce's modernist novel Ulysses.

Teaching close reading

The push for more close-reading instruction in primary and secondary education is partially due to increased feedback from college professors in the early-mid 2000s that students were arriving in university classrooms with few comprehension skills.WEB,weblink Closing in on Close Reading - Educational Leadership, ASCD, www.ascd.org, en-US, 2018-02-07, The increased demand for students to acquire concrete skills in high school that they would need in transitioning to higher education and to adult life culminated in the creation of the Common Core State Standards in 2009.WEB,weblink About the Standards {{!, Common Core State Standards Initiative|last=|first=|date=|website=www.corestandards.org|language=en-US|archive-url=|archive-date=|dead-url=|access-date=2018-02-07}} Since then, there has been a push for English Language Arts teachers, especially at the secondary level, to help students develop close-reading strategies. Several of the English Language Arts (ELA) Standards for Reading Literature require students to be able to cite direct textual evidence, and to analyze words in context. For example, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.4 asks students to "Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone)."WEB,weblink English Language Arts Standards » Reading: Literature » Grade 9-10 {{!, Common Core State Standards Initiative|last=|first=|date=|website=www.corestandards.org|language=en-US|archive-url=|archive-date=|dead-url=|access-date=2018-02-07}}

Strategies

Today, as most states have adopted the Common Core Standards,WEB,weblink Standards in Your State {{!, Common Core State Standards Initiative|last=|first=|date=|website=www.corestandards.org|language=en-US|archive-url=|archive-date=|dead-url=|access-date=2018-02-07}} there is an increasing number of resources designed to help teachers instruct and implement close-reading strategies in their classrooms. In 2012, Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst published Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading, which established six "signposts" that alert readers to significant moments in a work of literature and encourage students to read closely.WEB,weblink Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading, Beers, Kylene, Heinemann, Another resource, developed by Beth Burke (NBCT) for the Tampa Bay Times NIE (Newspaper in Education), presents the steps involved in close reading and how to scaffold the strategies for students. She recommends using the Gradual Release ModelWEB,weblink Closing in on Close Reading, Burke, Beth, Tampa Bay Times, in instruction, beginning by modeling a close reading in front of the class, then having students work on the strategy in groups before attempting it alone. Additional ways to support students in close-reading instruction include providing graphic organizers that help them group their ideas with textual evidence.WEB,weblink Close Reading Graphic Organizer, State of Wyoming,

See also

References

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