After watching Dr. Jerz’s second video about close reading, I am reminded again of the significance of having evidence to support your claim. There can be many interpretations of the same literary work, but evidence is necessary to support why your interpretation is valid.
One point that stuck out to me was when Dr. Jerz said close reading is about studying “how the author used words to do something to the reader.” This reminds me of a basic concept of my communication studies: content and process. Although it’s important to understand the poem itself (content), it’s also important to understand how the author chose to communicate those words (process).
Close reading is particularly important for poetry, in which every word, even every punctuation mark, is significant. The process also involves a willingness on the reader’s end to research unfamiliar terms, especially when reading a work from a different time period. Understanding references is necessary as well, which Dr. Jerz showed in his close reading of “On Being Brought From Africa to America” by Phillis Wheatley. She used the phrase “black as Cain,” so understanding who Cain was in religious tradition and his significance adds to the reader’s ability to analyze and interpret the poem.
At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that the author is separate from the speaker. While understanding an author’s background is beneficial, analyzing a poem involves applying that background context to understand what the author is conveying through a particular speaker.
Close reading is a complex task, but if done with careful consideration, you can learn a whole lot more from a literary text.
Source: Literary Close Reading
One of the main ideas I took away from watching Dr. Jerz’s video about Sonnet 130 was that there are a lot of factors to consider when close reading. For example, it’s beneficial to research the context behind a literary text to understand its meaning. When we read John Donne’s “Death, be not proud” sonnet in class, understanding that Donne was also a priest gives us more insight to the potential theme of religion in the poem.
Similarly, understanding the correct definitions of words helps us determine the meaning of literary works. As Dr. Jerz mentioned, the word “love” could be meant in a broader sense, and not a romantic way, and “wires” likely did not mean electricity in Shakespeare’s time.
Although it is helpful to understand what the author might have meant when he or she wrote something, we have to also keep in mind that authorial intent is not everything. My most prominent takeaway from this video is that “there is no one correct answer” when analyzing a literary text, as long as you provide evidence to back up your claim.
Source: An Introductory Close Reading of Sonnet 130
Normally, I’m a student journalist. I stick to writing the facts instead of writing creatively.
However, there’s a lot I hope to take away from this “Writing about Literature” course.
One of my goals is to become better at analyzing and interpreting literary texts throughout this class. Similarly, I hope to improve my ability to research as I complete various writing assignments. Being able to conduct literary research is something I normally do not practice, and improving my ability to complete this process is a skill I can apply to my future career as a communication/journalism professional. My future career will likely require me to analyze and interpret issues and research to find solutions, so practicing this at a literary level will benefit me in the professional world.
Finally, I hope to become more enlightened about the different perspectives people have of the world. Each writer has a different story to tell and each student in this class will have a different way to interpret their words, so I’m excited to see and learn from the different ways that everyone interprets something similar.
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