Week Three Blog Prompt: CLOSE READING

Your first major assignment – coming up in a few weeks – asks you to perform a close reading of a section of one of the texts we’ll have covered in class by then (‘The Girl Who Was Plugged In’, ‘The Matter of Seggri’ and The Female Man). This blog post is designed both to give you some practice with close reading independently and to give you the opportunity to receive feedback from your peers on the strengths and weaknesses of your reading, tips on strategies, etc. In your blog post this week, please carry out a close reading of one of the three textual fragments below. (Note that you’ll be allowed to select your own section for the first major paper, but you cannot use one of the sections reproduced here.) As a reminder, your blog posts should be about 250-300 words and demonstrate that you’ve thought seriously about what you’re writing.

Wall painted black with 'READ' written in all-caps, white letters, covering the whole wall. Blue sky in background, dirt surface in foreground.

Remember: part of your grade for blogging is to provide comments to your peers and engage in discussion. Consider using your comments this week to provide constructive feedback, like you will when we do peer review for your major assignments. Learning to identify strengths and weaknesses in others’ writing will help you identify them in your own work and make you a stronger writer.

Close reading means carrying out careful examination of the fine details of a text and exploring how those details contribute to what the text means, and how it creates and communicates that meaning. It is ALL ABOUT THE TEXT. You’ll begin by making observations about the text, and then interpret your observations to offer your analysis of the text.

Things you will likely want to cover in your observations:

  • The basics: Where in the text does this passage sit? Who are the actors in this passage? Whose perspective is shown? What is said and to whom? What is the timeframe and setting? Situate yourself.
  • Paraphrase: Restate as simply as possible what goes down in this passage. This makes sure you know what’s happening – or clues you in that you don’t.
  • LANGUAGE – this is the most crucial part and you should dedicate most of your time here. Pay attention to:
    • Repetition — are words, ideas, concepts, sounds, etc repeated within this passage? Are they repeated from elsewhere in the text?
    • Figurative language — does the text use metaphors, similes, personification or other forms of figurative language?
    • Allusion — does the text refer to other texts, historical events, people, cultural works?
    • Sound — try reading the passage aloud to identify assonance, alliteration, rhyme. Does the sound of the text create feelings of calm, agitation, confusion? Does it sound highbrow or lowbrow? Futuristic or retro?
    • Arrangement — how does the passage proceed? Does it unfold in an unexpected way? Does it proceed temporally or is it arranged differently?
    • Ambiguity — is every meaning clear, or are words and phrases used that might be interpreted in a number of ways? Does your sense of the meaning change as you read and reread?

You’ll then move onto analysis. Your guiding question here is: How do the details you’ve observed in the passage contribute to its overall effect?

  • Why do these particular details jump out at you? Do you see them repeated in other places in the text? Do they seem significant to the work as a whole?
  • What effect do these elements have on your feeling towards and understanding of the passage? Do they create a mood? Do they establish clarity or signal confusion?
  • Do the elements that you’ve observed all contribute to the same effect? Or do they work in different directions? Do they create tension, and if so, what kind?
Series of photos of a white man with short hair and glasses wearing a white shirt, pretending to read a book titled 'How to Pretend to Read a Book'

Not like this.

PASSAGES (pick one to examine):

And there’s the messy business of the name, which always gives Doctor Tesla an acute pain in the bush.
The name comes out weird, when it’s suddenly discovered that Burke’s “P.” stands for “Philadelphia,” Philadelphia? The astrologer grooves on it. Joe thinks it would help identification. The semantics girl references brotherly love, Liberty-Bell, main-line, low teratogenesis, blah-blah. Nicknames Philly? Pala? Pooty? Delphi? Is it good, bad? Finally “Delphi” is gingerly declared goodo. (“Burke” is replaced by something nobody remembers.)

– “The Girl Who Was Plugged In”, pp6-7

But here come the tests of Delphi’s button-nose twinkling in the torrent of news and entertainment. And she’s noticed. The feedback shows a flock of viewers turning up the amps when this country baby gets tangled in her new colloidal body-jewels. She registers at a couple of major scenes, too, and when the Infante gives her a suncar, little Delphi trying out suncars is a tiger. There’s a solid response in high-credit country.

Mr. Cantle is humming his happy tune as he cancels a Benelux subnet option to guest her on a nude cook-show called Work Venus.

– “The Girl Who Was Plugged In”, p13

It sounds like a miserable life. All they’re allowed to do after age eleven is compete at games and sports inside the castle, and compete in the fuckeries, after they’re fifteen or so, for money and number of fucks and so on. Nothing else. No options. No trades. No skills of making. No travel unless they play in the big games. They aren’t allowed into the colleges to gain any kind of freedom of mind. I asked Skodr why an intelligent man couldn’t at least come study in the college, and she told me that learning was very bad for men: it weakens a man’s sense of honor, makes his muscles flabby, and leaves him impotent. “‘What goes to the brain takes from the testicles:” she said. “Men have to be sheltered from education for their own good.”

– “The Matter of Seggri”, p32


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