61 Final Close Reading Essay Assignment

Requirements: 3-5 pages, double-spaced, MLA format

Description: This close reading essay asks you to choose a work of literature, identify a theme, come up with a thesis that makes a claim about the theme you’ve chosen, and write an essay to support your claim. A claim must be a statement that you can argue; you must try to persuade your readers to understand and accept your interpretation of the theme and the story. In order to do so, you will need to describe how the author uses literary devices and you will need to support your ideas with evidence and quotations from the text, as well as published research on the text.

Write a text you enjoyed! You may choose any text we have read in class. Please do not choose a text other than those we read in class. Considering the essay is short, choose only one novel, short story, or play to analyze; you may be able to write about more than one poem, though it is suggested you try to analyze just one first.

Here are some suggestions to help you plan your essay:

  1. Build on an online discussion post. If you already wrote an analysis of the text, and your instructor will respond to it, that’s significant work toward your essay.
  2. It’s good to analyze various literary elements – setting, of view, symbols, metaphors – but you will get the most mileage out of analyzing characters and conflict.
  3. Don’t summarize or, if you must, limit summary of the text to one paragraph. This is not a book report.
  4. Do research by reading scholarly articles before you finalize your thesis. Responding to what’s been written is a great way to get ideas.
  5. Break the text into scenes and organize your essay around analysis of specific scenes. Think of the text like a movie or TV show and divide it into scenes based on setting – where and when things occur – as well as who is there.
  6. Discuss symbolic meaning. That will help you get beyond summary. Remember critical approaches we discussed, such as New Historicism, ideological analysis, and other schools of criticism. Use the Bedford Guide, too.
  7. Start early. This is not something you can throw together at the last minute.
  8. Consult me! Your instructor loves talking about literature and will always be happy to discuss your ideas.
  9. Use quotes in every paragraph, both from your primary text and from sources.
  10. Adhere to all assignment criteria. 3-5 pages doesn’t mean 2.75 pages. Use Times New Roman, 12 point font, standard margins, and no extra spaces between paragraphs.

Assessment – Your essay will be assessed based on the following criteria:

  1. Clear thesis that presents an arguable claim.
  2. Accuracy of your close reading/ innovation or creativity.
  3. Evidence from the text – quotations, paraphrasing etc.
  4. Evidence from research – must include at least two scholarly sources (not web sources)
  5. Conventions of writing – grammar, organization, word choice etc.


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