In this chapter, we examined in depth the protocols for writing a paper on literature using the close reading technique. Such a technique reflects the literary theory known as New Criticism. The basic tenets of New Criticism, we learned, are the following:
- The critic focuses solely on the literary work and is not interested in bringing outside material to the work itself.
- The close reader wants to find a harmony of unity in the literary work and solve an issue or problem that readers may have about the work.
- By striving to find such harmony and unity, the critic shows that the artistic value of the literary work leads to a larger truth value, which reflects the importance of analyzing literature.
- You were given the opportunity to see the New Critical methodology practiced in three student papers.
- You learned about the importance of the writing process, including peer review and the strategies for conducting peer review. Many of you also participated in peer review for your close reading paper.
- You wrote a close reading analysis of a work of literature—and are now off on your way to the wonderland of critical theory and writing!
- Freewriting exercise. Choose a short poem (no more than fifteen lines) you’ve never read before. It’s OK if you’ve never even heard of the author. Read through it several times. As you read the poem, jot down the words that seem most significant. Draw arrows between words that seem related to one another: either because they’re similar or because they’re very different. Then start writing. How do these keywords relate to one another? Are there any tensions that seem important? At first, don’t look back at the poem—concentrate on the words themselves and what they mean.
- Once you’ve spent a little time with individual words, turn your attention back to the poem itself. Read it again, thinking about the relationships you just brainstormed. Now start applying the insights you gained looking at the words alone back to the poem itself. How does a close attention to the poem’s individual words and specific phrases help you better understand the larger meaning or message of the poem?
INSTRUCTOR SUPPLEMENT: CLASS PEER REVIEW
Have students conduct peer review on one of the sample papers using the organizational peer-review guide found in Chapter 10, Section 10.1 "Chapter 2: Close Reading":
- Place students in groups of three to four and have them reread the paper for peer review and fill out the guide sheet. Peer review works equally well for online classes; modify the following suggestion according to the electronic classroom and equipment you are using.
- Have students discuss their feedback responses to the sample paper.
- Have students list the major feedback they discussed.
- Put the major issues on the blackboard or whiteboard.
- Discuss these responses. Make certain that you let students know that any paper can be improved.
Plan to have your students conduct peer review on the drafts of their papers that they are writing in your class. Use the peer-review guide from Chapter 10, Section 10.1 "Chapter 2: Close Reading" and have them work in groups of three and do the following:
- Bring two hard copies of their paper so that each member can read the paper, OR work in a computer lab where students can share their papers online. You may want to use the educational software that your campus supports—for example, Blackboard or Moodle—or you can have students use Google Drive to set up their peer-review groups.
- Have two students focus on the first paper in the group. While these students are reading, have the other student read the other two student papers.
- The two students should quickly fill out the peer-review sheet and then have a brief conversation about the strengths of the paper and ways the paper could be improved.
- Move to the next student and follow the same process. Depending on the length of your class, you may have to reduce the peer-review groups to two students.
- If time permits, ask the students to provide general comments—or ask questions—about the specific papers or the assignment overall.
- You may want to use peer review for each paper in your class.