Tips on Close Reading

Here are some suggestions that I’d like for you to follow when we hold a close reading of a passage during class or for homework:

Read the Section Multiple Times
Mark the passage up as you go – pay attention to what grabs your attention as you proceed

Examine the Language
Do you notice any unusual word selections that the author made? Why do you think he or she selected this particular word, as opposed to a similar synonym?
Are there specific places where the diction shifts? Or overall, how would you characterize the diction?
Look for words that carry a charged connotation, see if a pattern emerges
Look for similar patterns in euphony / cacophony – in other words, the SOUNDS of the words that the author selected

Examine the Structure and Location
Are there any places where the delivery of the material stands out? Unusual sentence structuring? Are the sentences complex or simple? Any unusual paragraph or line breaks? Telegraphic sentences? What is the effect of these structural oddities?
Why does it start the way it starts? Why does this end the way it ends?
What comes right before this scene? Right after? (You might not be able to answer this if it is a section from a part we haven’t yet read, or if it is a poem)

Examine Literary Devices
Are you noticing any literary devices in this section? Simile, metaphor, repetitions, alliterations, etc. If you are noticing something unusual in the language, you might not realize it, but you may have discovered a literary device that you simply don’t know the name of. Also, do not merely identify when the author uses a literary device – tell the impact that the device has on the piece.

Connections to Other Sections (for sections of a novel)
What does this section reinforce that you have already seen elsewhere? Are there any similarities to other scenes – either literally or thematically?
What does this scene contradict that you have already seen elsewhere? What is the significant of this contradiction?

Make note of any questions that you have as you proceed. These can be fact-based, or more open-ended questions.

Example (forthcoming! Stay tuned!)