[It’s important to me that you have this lesson published on our website so that you can return to it while you analyze tweets and speeches for your final projects. So, though this repetitive material, I’m publishing it here for you just in case.]

In our work: Close reading is what we are doing when after we use a tool to visualize a text we head back into the body of the text to think about how the words we’re interested in work in context. Ideally, we find several instances of the word or theme we are analyzing and, in each instance, select an important but small chunk of text to analyze as if under a microscope. Voyant is a useful tool that enables both distant reading and close reading.

In general, close reading squeezes every last drop of meaning out of a small portion of text. To close read, you need to select a quote and then spend some quality time thinking about it creatively and deeply. Close reading enables us to assign meaning to individual words and phrases and to draw connections between important pieces of language in the text.

For each small quote you select to close read, answering these questions will help you close read:

  • What parts of the quote are important to supporting your argument or your hypothesis? Why do you think this? How do they work? Are there parts of the quote that defy your argument? What are they?
  • Is there very descriptive, rich, or figurative language at work in the quote? (If you don’t know if it’s figurative, you can usually guess because it’s really rich language that is figured, or not literal.) How does that language work in context? What is its meaning in this context? Does it appear in other quotes, and if so, is the meaning different?
  • Looking closely at the language: are there patterns at work? Are there words or phrases that repeat or that have an identifiable rhythm? Or, to the contrary, are their words or phrases or forms that are unique or that you think are missing?
  • Thinking about this quote and other pieces of evidence you have selected: What connections can you draw connections between this one quote and other quotes that support your argument?

Image source: http://i.usatoday.net/travel/_photos/2007/05/08/butterflyx.jpg

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