Close reading consists of several strategies. All strategies can help you gain more insight into a literary work. Try each strategy in any order.
1. Make predictions as you read.
2. Reread the text.
3. Test the text against your own experiences.
4. Look for patterns in the text and disruptions of them.
5. Note ambiguities.
6. Consider the author's alternatives.
7. Ask Questions.
8. Jot down possible answers, make notes of key passages, talk to the text, look away from the text and write down what you remember, freewrite about the text for ten minutes, list various details, images, characters and events that strike you as important, rearrange the text by revising it.
LITERARY ANALYSIS JOURNAL
ANALYZING AND EVALUATING
This reading journal is designed to enable students to become familiar with, and comfortable using, the terms applied to the resources of language and related stylistic devices of literature, and to become proficient at analyzing their various effects on tone, theme, rhetoric, and pacing.
Respond to each of the four questions on the next page labeled: Tone, Theme, Rhetoric, and Pacing. Prepare the entry on loose-leaf notebook paper, dividing the page into quarters. In each left-hand box: label and copy the text excerpt you are using as evidence; then, label and list the specific stylistic devices exhibited in the text; then, label and write an assertion, proving the use of these specific stylistic devices in the text. In each right-hand box, label, adapt, and write each question relating to tone, theme, rhetoric, or pacing by modifying the underlined passage (specify the resource[s] of language—SPADITALS, and insert identifying information from the text); then, label and write a full answer.
(Use the following questions as jumping-off points leading to interpretation based on the resources of language.)
What are the various parts of this passage? Are there oppositions or contrasts? Are there
repetitive elements? How strongly do these considerations affect interpretation?
P oint of View
What is the effect of the narrative technique being used? How reliable is it? Why might
propaganda be at use? Is there a subjective or objective tone that is prevalent?
Are there strong appeals to emotions, logic, or ethics (either the writer’s or the reader’s)? What are
the effects of these different appeals?
What does word choice reveal in the way of emotions? To what effect are sound effects used?
Are there contrasts in word choice? How precise or vague is the writer being?
What irony is revealed in the text? What reaction does the ironic situation generate? In what ways
are character, plot, and overall meaning affected?
What is striking, unusual, predictable, idiosyncratic, hackneyed, or conventional about the writer’s
literary techniques, conventions, or thinking processes?
Are there any places where the work raises questions? What does a word or phrase mean? For what might certain symbols stand? What are alternative ways of interpreting a character? Are there different ways the speaker views a situation? What are multiple ways of reading the conclusion? What kinds of opposition of “worlds” (e.g., good vs. evil) are evident? What different ideas might comprise the writer’s main subject?
L anguage (Figurative)
What are the distinguishing qualities of the figurative language that characterize this work? To
what effect is it used? What unique uses of language are evident?
How does sentence structure generate meaning? What repetitive elements emerge? How is rhythm generated by the order of words? What is the effect of the rhythm?
Questions based on language used by Dr. Jack Stillinger, University of Illinois, 1995.
Tone: What does/do the resource(s) of language reveal about the speaker's attitude toward the subject and/or the audience?
Theme: How does/do the resource(s) of language contribute to conveying the underlying meaning of the selection or the position (thesis) the speaker takes?
Rhetoric: What effect does/do the resource(s) of language have on the speaker's attempt to involve/persuade the audience?
Pacing: How does/do the resource(s) of language contribute to variation in the pace of the writing, and how does this shift/progression affect tone, theme, or rhetoric?
(Note: Each part of the acronym, SPADITALS, represents a broad category often termed “a resource of language.”)
plot (include donée, setting, characterization)
order/organization of ideas based on purpose and mode
verse patterns and any deviations
P oint of view
narrative techniques (include first-person/participant..., third-person/non-participant...)
second-person forms of address
rhetorical appeals (ethos, pathos, logos), plausibility, relevance
language, denotation/connotation, concrete/abstract, monosyllabic/polysyllabic, title, synonym/antonym, assonance/consonance, cacophony(dissonance)/euphony, jargon, malapropism, pun, onomatopoeia, oxymoron, alliteration, rhyme, dialect, colloquialism
verbal, situational, dramatic
allegory, allusion, alter ego, amplification, anachronism, anecdote, aphorism, apostrophe, archetype, assertion, comic relief, conventions (aside, concealment, soliloquy, setting, acting, deus ex machina), detail, didacticism, digression, dilemma, epigram, epithet, euphemism, fable, flashback, foil, foreshadowing, grotesque, hero, imagery, juxtaposition, litotes, meiosis/understatement, motif, myth, parable, paradox, parody, propaganda, qualification, sarcasm, satire, stereotype, style, syllogism, symbolism, wit
verbal, symbolic, tonal, character, closure, cosmographical, subject material
L anguage (Figurative)
figures of speech (include conceit, personification, simile, epic/Homeric/heroic simile, direct/indirect
metaphors, synecdoche, metonymy, hyperbole), analogy
sentence construction, type, and structure
© 2001 L. Addison Diehl
See Critical Reading Strategies, and Reading Strategies on these websites.