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ENG 211: Introduction to Language & Literature: Close Reading

What is Close Reading?

Close reading involves careful study and analysis of a specific passage within the text. This careful analysis of one passage often leads to the identification of larger themes or ideas that are occurring throughout the text. Close reading lays the groundwork for more comprehensive literary analysis of the entire text. 

When close reading, pay attention to the following: 

  • Word Choice: are there words that stand out as you read the passage? Why do you think the author chose this word?
  • Syntax: how are the words and sentences arranged and constructed? 
  • Recurring Imagery: are there patterns to the way the author describes characters, events, objects, etc.?
  • Context: how does this passage fit within the text as a whole? 
  • Literary Devices: what literary devices, such as metaphors, irony, etc., does the author use?

Words and Syntax

Word use and meaning within a text is important. If you come across a word you do not know, the author uses repeatedly, or you simply think might be important, look it up in the dictionary! Analyzing the history of a word can lead to important discoveries about a text. 


Equally as important as identifying word history and meaning is identifying word instances across both the text you are studying and even within the author's entire works. Analyzing word instances within the text can help you to identify patterns and recurring symbols or imagery.  

Concordances are the most common example of resources that document individual words used within the text. You may have encountered Biblical Concordances before, perhaps your Bible even has its own brief concordance. Literature concordances can be published per individual work or by author. Search the NOBLE Catalog using the authors name and adding "concordance" as keywords for your search. 

A few free online versions of concordances are also available by literary period and author. 

Online Version of Texts
Depending on the text you are studying there may also be online versions of the text available. Online versions will allow you to search within the text usually by a particular word or phrase and can act as a version of a concordance. Search for your text by title in the NOBLE Catalog and look for "ebook" options. You might also try searching Google Books which often allows you to view a select number of pages within a text for free online. 

Literary Devices