Thanks for a great class today!
For next Tuesday, you should post a question that you plan to ask Nick Jans about his work. This can be about either Grizzly Maze or The Glacier Wolf. Additionally, you should bring your notebook to class and you should probably start working on your paper.
To that end, a few students asked me to share my powerpoint slides about effective close reading, so I'm pasting the text below.
Tips for effective Close Reading
TWO RULES OF THUMB:
1) don't be afraid to state the obvious.
2) the text will not speak for itself. If you don't explain your quotations and how they work, your reader won't understand your argument.
5 STEPS FOR SUCCESSFUL CLOSE READING:
1) Thesis—What's my point? Before you return to the text, you should have a thesis in mind about the text as a whole.
2) Selection of text—Choose the passages you will quote and that exemplify your argument.
3) Paraphrase—Immediately following every quotation in your essay, you should provide as full a summary of the passage as possible. Remember, don't be afraid to state the obvious—even if the passage seems self-evident, tell your reader what you think it means.
4) Textual analysis—after you've established what the author or speaker is saying, you'll want to establish how he or she is saying it.
5) Reformulate your thesis. Just as a scientist concludes his or her experiment by reassessing the starting hypothesis, so too must you return to your original thesis and revise it in light of all you've discovered in the process of analyzing a specific passage. In a sentence or two, that is, you need to say what your close reading has proved—just how it has supported or developed your argument.
THINGS TO CONSIDER IN YOUR PARAPHRASING:
1) Context. Determine the context of the passage. Where does the passage or line appear in the text? How do the surrounding ideas or action affect our reading or the passage's meaning?
2) Vocabulary. Make sure you know what each word in the passage means. Are there allusions to historical events or figures? Are there concepts that need to be clarified? You should gloss any allusions or unfamiliar words or familiar words that are being used in an unfamiliar way.
3) General claims. Determine the basic thrust of the passage. That is, what is the speaker or author trying to say?
THINGS TO CONSIDER IN YOUR ANALYSIS:
1) Figures of speech or rhetorical devices. How are syntax and/or sentence or paragraph structure manipulated, and what effects are thereby achieved? For film, you might think about how editing or transitions between images are constructed.
2) Diction (word choice) and allusion. Does the author use words drawn from other well-defined spheres of life (e.g. economics, legal discourse, Biblical contexts)? What sort of tone or value judgments are implied by the words chosen? Might more neutral terms have been chosen?
3) Form: Are there formal conventions you can identify? How do these forms impact the meaning?
A common misconception about literary analysis is that it's merely "subjective"—that anything goes, one opinion or impression being as good as any other. However, like any other rigorous field of inquiry, far from being merely subjective, the arguments of literary critics require evidence to make them convincing. Of course, as in other humanistic disciplines, there may be no final answers about the meaning of a text—but that doesn't mean that all interpretations are equally valid, compelling, or meaningful.