Essay 1: Close Reading

Broad overview

Select a short section of one of the three texts addressed so far in class (‘The Girl Who Was Plugged In’, ‘The Matter of Seggri’ or The Female Man) and compose a 1000-word essay which offers a close reading of your section.


Your selected section should be as brief as possible, while still having enough meat to analyse (approximately 1-2 paragraphs; certainly no more than one page). This section cannot be one of the three offered as options for the close reading blog post, but you are otherwise free to choose any part of any of the texts you want.

Your task is to carry out a close reading of this chosen section of the text, identifying the various literary devices used by the author to communicate with the reader in that section and examining, briefly, how your selected section functions within the larger text. Your essay should both document and interpret your observations about the text. Focus in on what matters to the story, not (necessarily) what is just interesting to you. Your purpose is to present an argument that any other careful reader of the story can understand.

You will need to briefly summarise your selected section within the body of your text, then move onto your analysis and interpretation. Pay attention to word choice, figures, tone, structure and other elements of the text which stand out to you. You may need to consult external sources such as the Oxford English Dictionary or history texts to bolster your argument, but your essay should focus on your own description and interpretation of the excerpt. You should follow a traditional essay structure — introduction, conclusion, topic sentences, etc.


Format your essay, including its bibliography, according to MLA guidelines. You should also include a copy of your selected passage in its entirety as an addendum, and provide a word count at the end of your essay. Essays are to be submitted by email as a .doc or .pdf


This paper will be peer-reviewed in class, revised and submitted to the instructor for feedback (50% of grade for this assignment). You will then meet with the instructor for an individual conference and based on that discussion, further revise and resubmit the paper for a final grade (50% of grade for this assignment).

Contribution to final grade: 20% (10% first version; 10% second version)

Expected word count: 1000 words +/- 10% (provide a word count at the end of your paper)


Tues, Sept 30: in-class peer review workshop. Come to class on time with a complete and polished draft of your paper in soft copy (you can print in the classroom for free if you prefer to work with hard copies). Peer review documents will be circulated over the weekend prior.

Thur, Oct 2: initial submission. Email your revised paper to Beck ( before 11.59pm.

Mon, Oct 6 and Tues, Oct 7: individual paper conferences with Beck (book yours; @gmail or @utexas login required). No class meeting on Tues, Oct 7.

Thur, Oct 9: second submission. Email your rewritten paper to Beck before 11.59pm.

Additional resources

These are by no means obligatory, but some of you may find them helpful.

As you know, the close reading blog prompt has questions that can guide you through this. Consider reading your peers’ blog posts & comments to get a sense of what works and does not work.

Not everything on his handout from the University of Warwick applies to our work (Renaissance what now?) but it offers another set of questions to assist you in close reading.

The Undergrad Writing Center here at UT has a great handout on close reading (as well as all kinds of other things). You can also meet one-on-one with an experienced writing consultant to discuss and revise your drafts — free and super useful! Appointment booking is here.