What does it mean to analyze literature? Basically, when we read a literary text critically, we are examining its rhetorical strategies. The central difference is that with imaginative literature, the “argument” is seldom explicitly stated. In fact, that’s why it can be so rewarding to analyze the writing itself, as there are arguments at work within literary texts—we just need to discern them. When you analyze a literary text, at least using the methodologies available to you in this class, you are attempting to discern something significant about the author’s ideas, beliefs, and assumptions, or alternately, about the broader social and historical context in which the text was produced in order to make an inductive argument.
For this assignment, you are to perform a close reading of a passage from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. A close reading involves three stages: paraphrase, close reading, and interpretation. These different stages allow you to consider what a passage is saying, where in the text it is located, how it is saying it, and why it might be saying this. This last point is particularly important, as it stresses that close reading is not simply pointing out metaphors or noting allusions to other works; it requires that you explain why this is important, both within the text and potentially beyond (stakes!). Understanding and articulating this should be the ultimate goal of your paper. When you are close reading, you are reading and evaluating texts to analyze main points and ideas, and then drawing conclusions, raising questions, or underscoring complications in the texts based on your understanding and analysis. What can you tell your reader about his passage that he or she might not already know after reading it? Why is it important, especially in relation to the rest of the story? Close reading is a necessary skill for understanding any text as a living interaction with its audience as well as for understanding how any text interacts with its readers. You are not looking for the “message” of the text, and do not give general explanations, broad summaries, or cliché observations of the story. Instead, you will focus on a specific passage from the text (be specific: the shorter the better!).
· A close textual analysis of a short passage from Dickens’s novel (as short as one word, no longer than a paragraph)
· An argumentative claim addressing in some way Dickens’s rhetorical strategies
· Written for an academic audience