"OK...Right...Whoa, what?"

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"Close reading essays about portions of a work should demonstrate how the passage is connected to the rest of the work" (Roberts 54).

Initially, this passage did not provoke an overly grateful response from me.   However, after I reflected on some of the things I've read in the past, I realized that this is actually great advice for writing a paper.  How many times has each of us been reading a book, and, regardless of whether we were enjoying the piece or not, come across a passage that seemed to make absolutely no sense.  We have been plucked from our narrative walk, tripped by this stumbling block of misplaced text.  "Why is that there?" we might ask ourselves, and by "there" we do not mean between those specific chapters or paragraphs, but in the book at all.  It's simple to shrug and just read on, hoping your professor was just as flummoxed about the passage as you were. (This is generally a vain hope.  If a passage earns a collective blank-stare response from the class, that's practically a guarantee it will be discussed.) 

Even if it is impossible to avoid that obscure bit of text in a discussion, that's still not incentive to actually write about it in a close reading assignment.  After all, this seemingly random section seems completely disconnected from the rest of the work.  Perhaps we could just assume that when the author wrote that particular part, he/she was in the midst of one of those nervous breakdowns writers are so fond of having.  But, really, the mere fact this passage seems disconnected is a perfect reason to try to connect it to everything else.  Chances are, one could even unlock another part of the theme by studying this specific portion of text.  Writers generally have a reason for each part of their story, and finding a reason for particularly confusing segments can actually provide an interesting topic for a paper.


Kayla Lesko said:

I feel the same way when reading certain things. It gets annoying when I have to read a passage over again because I couldn't understand it.

Aja Hannah said:

Wow! I didn't even get that from the book. Thanks for pointing it out. There are so many times when I come across passages I feel are just filler. It sounds quite obvious, but I never really looked at those passages and maybe they would present me with a topic or give me a better understanding of the text as a whole.

Brooke Kuehn said:

You are so right. I can't tell you how many times a quote from a reading that seemed to make absolutely no sense at all was placed in a high school test with the question "What did the author mean in this statement?" or something along those lines. I was traumatized into forcing myself to not look past these quotes, but instead, at least have something to say about them other than "huh?" or "what?".

Josie Rush said:

It's a backwards feeling when I write, though. I never feel like the reader owes me tons of time, so I try to make things simple to understand. Though, there's a fine line between being clear and insulting your reader's intelligence.

Great insight, Josie. I definitely didn't notice that when I was reading this chapter. It's so true, too. So many times I just go "well, they put that there because they needed it to fit," but I'm sure there is a reason sometimes and I just need to look closer.

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