Close Reading and Concepts in American Literature,1867-1934

3-4 double-spaced pages in 12 pt. Times New Roman1-inch margins.

Description: This semester we have practiced close reading, the foundational method of literary study, as a way to slow down our interpretive pace, to show our thought process, and to build evidence-based arguments about our course readings. While weve practiced close reading in our Discussion Forums and Reading Responses, for the midterm you will have the opportunity to build a coherent, focused argument in the shape of a formal essay. This assignment will require you to define a thesis and to support that thesis with evidence from the passage/text of your choice. Additionally, you will link your thesis and support to a concept (or lens of analysis) that we have discussed so far this semester.

Process: You may work with any text weve discussed this semester, beginning small with a passage of your choice. Follow the steps of a close reading.

(1)  Passage from (1883) Emma Lazarus,  The New Colossus,

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

(2)  Retype or otherwise indicate passage choice before beginning paper; this does not count toward page length.

(3)  Identify one concept that you will use as your analytic lens. Concepts might include: Postbellum Democracy, Accommodation, Assimilation, Double Consciousness, Immigration,  High Modernism,  Native American removal American Modernism Realism/NaturalismAmalgamation/Miscegenation

I’m leaning towards immigration.

For shorter poems, you may select the entire poem as your passage.

4) Develop a thesis that you pose early in your paper (ideally, within the first paragraph). Your thesis should use the first-person pronoun I to show your reader your unique intervention. Example: In this paper, I argue that based on the evidence from this passages staged confrontation between the men and the birds in Stephen Cranes The Open Boat, Crane uses the concept of realism to show mans struggle against nature. you will obviously come up with something better. This is just a sample; do not use it in your own paper! Weve talked enough about the birds

(5)  For the rest of your paper, follow the steps of a close reading, showing your reader how each point supports your thesis. Those steps are understanding Noticing the lexicon Explaining your findings Connecting your passage to the larger context of the text(6)Conclude by thinking of the large implications and significance of your argument. Do not just restate your thesis. Questions to think about when drafting a conclusion: What does this detailed argument about the passage reveal about the world in which the author wrote? What does this concept tell us about literature of the time period in which the author is writing?


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