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Appendix (On Close Reading)

Page history last edited by Brian Croxall 14 years, 4 months ago

You are about to do a close reading of a text. What follows is just a partial, highly informal list of things you might consider; it is intended only to jog your memory—it’s not a checklist or a recipe!  


  • Who speaks? Is it the narrator in a novel, or a persona standing in for the poet? a character? If a character’s speaking, what is the character’s status in the text? Is it a buffoon? a sage? the villain? etc.
  • If you’re reading a poem, you will want to consider explicit formal properties, such as stanza form, meter, and rhyme. Also consider the presence or absence of enjambment.
  • What is the tone of the passage? Rueful? sardonic? arch? vatic? sarcastic? passionate? bored? judgmental? wry? sympathetic? How can you tell?
  • What is the diction of the passage? Formal? colloquial? Is it in dialect?
  • Look at the passage’s syntax. Is it well-ordered and balanced? Frenzied? Is the passage noticeably ungrammatical? What is the effect of this choice?
  • Look at the shape of the sentence. Are its parts parallel in structure? Does the parallel structure represent agreement or antithesis? Are there notable deviations from conventional word order? Is there noticeable repetition?
  • Look at the words of the passage to see if there are any figures of speech: similes, metaphors, puns, etc. How do these contribute to or complicate the surface meaning of what the speaker is saying?



Adapted from Jason B. Jones

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