Project 2 follow up: close reading

Close Reading. Our focal point this project was close/slow reading. As you recall from several (at four three different) workshops and discussions we had about what I consider to be a template for close reading, I emphasize that a body paragraph that is closely and slowly reading a text to develop and support and extend its overall argument needs to take time. The writer slows down by going further and longer with the paragraph after a relevant quotation–sometimes 4 or 5  sentences more. This is not the place to be concise or brief–provided you are focusing on interpretation, on elaboration, on your extension, and not merely summarizing or paraphrasing (remember that comes briefly before the quotation).

  • A strong example of this kind of close/slow reading: Tim’s focus on the intertext of Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” in Frankenstein. He wisely uses the implications of poetry (the complications of language, of the idea of poetry and the poetic itself) to develop and complicate his argument. In other words, the text isn’t merely quoted as evidence (see, here it is); rather, Tim uses the close reading of the text to deepen his argument–and implies in the process that slowing down as readers is something that the author of the novel is interested in. As I extend the idea from Tim, I would say that another weakness of Victor is that he is not good at close/slow reading. He’s too quick, doesn’t slow down and read for the implications. Precisely what we need good critical readers and writers to do.
  • Ellie’s essay also offers a strong example for following up a quotation and elaborating the thinking–having the paragraph extend beyond a quick reference to the text, having longer paragraphs in key places.

Thesis. We focused, once again, on the thesis. This time, we gave more attention to setting up a focused and specific thesis. The hard part here is that the introduction of this thesis needs to be focused, sharp–in a 4 page essay, you can’t take a couple pages just to get into it. In that sense, there is some demand for brevity and conciseness–though we still want a thesis to be complicated, to have and raise larger implications. How to do that? We will keep our eye on that in the next project–particularly when we look at the way a film sets up its thesis. A basic point we have discussed and seen: a thesis is a response to a problem–and often a strong thesis works something like the hook or turning point in a film: the response to the problem has an element of surprise. But in order to have the surprise and the response, don’t forget to state the basic problem. For this project, you need some context. How would most people think of Frankenstein–novel or film or both? Most would view it as a monster story of some sort. What then is Genesis or Paradise Lost or poetry or intertexuality of any sort doing in this monster story? That’s a basic problem that your thesis can respond to and answer.

  • An example of a strong set up of this sort: Jackie’s introduction-notice the way she uses a question to identify a basic problem. Why have the reference to a poem in a horror story? How do we make sense of this? That moves the focus toward a thesis: the solution to a critical problem raised by the writer.
  • Another example of the problem being addressed by a question. In the case of Daniel’s essay, it is there in his title–and also emerges in his conclusion, where he also offers some larger implications. The surprise or ‘hook’ of the novel that Daniel extends into his thesis: what if a monster story had a monster who turns out to be human.

Some reminders. As I mentioned in the last editing workshop, a thesis needs to respond to a specific question. For these projects, that question is provided in the assignment. So, don’t forget to follow directions and pay attention to what’s been given or is expected. I would include in this matter, paying attention to the directions for submitting your projects, including a brief self-reflection, following MLA  citation format–which includes a works cited listing. These are things I am expecting you to do; neglecting to do them will reflect in your overall grade for the project.

A final point: take a look at what other students are doing with their projects. You can learn from the experience and exposure. This is a reason why I have you publish on your blog.

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