August 2009 Archives

Close Reading or Close-Mindedness?

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In my personal essay concerning my good friend "Literature and I," I detailed how I had a love-hate relationship with literature. I love the places that literature delivers me to, and the state of mind that I employ whenever I read. But I stated that I severely disliked how, as Karyssa put it, literature is surgically invaded and ripped apart. Every single detail is analyzed. So, I was interested in reading this chapter in Roberts. I wanted to see if every preconceived notion I'd ever had about explication and close readings would be squashed, and I wished to develop an open mind about this aspect of English major-dom.

I began this reading with an open mind only to find that the main characteristic of close reading is, indeed, close-mindedness. I was initially tipped off when Roberts stated that close-readings are primarily conducted about poems (53). Even though I believe it would be tedious to explicate entire stories, it is entirely too specific to say that an analytical process is confined to a specific genre. Additionally, while reading the essay about Mark Twain's "Luck," I noticed that the author of the essay analyses the number of words in a sentence, "eighty-one words long," to be exact (58). I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer, but I'd just like to ask "Who cares?"

So, I believe that close reading, rather than offering an expanded vision of a work that broadens one's literary horizons, instead forces a reader to be close-minded. A certain level of analysis is warranted and can sometimes help a reader to achieve further insight. That does not, however, mean that the reader has to pick apart a work until it is mangled.

October 2009

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