American Literature

Close Reading of Two Texts

• Close Reading and Concepts in American Literature, 1867-1996

• 4-5 double-spaced pages in 12 pt. Times New Roman or equivalent; 1-inch margins†

Description: This Final you will have the opportunity to build a coherent, focused argument in the shape of a formal essay that brings together two readings from two different weeks of the semester. 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).

Process: Select two texts (I am going to use the Open boat and desiree baby) that we’ve read this semester that interest you. Then, choose one passage from each text that you would like to bring together for your close reading (for a total of two passages). Think about the passages together: are they similar thematically? Do they address a similar subject matter? Do they address a similar subject matter, but with different approaches? Begin your paper by making a claim for what the two passages are doing together. You may select a concept or theme we’ve discusses this semester in connection with one or more of our readings, but you also have the option of developing your own concept or theme that connects both readings. Within the first paragraph of your paper, make an argument about the two texts, based on the concept you’ve defined that connects these two passages. Then, continue with the steps of a close reading, as outlined in Week 2 (I have attached an example) . Here is where defining the concept is helpful/essential: you can tie your lexicon, explanations, and argument to the concept. Your concept is the bridge between the two texts, and your paper should explicitly show how you are making the connections between the two.

(1) Choose one passage each from two course texts (for a total of 2 passages):‡

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

(3) Identify the concept that you will use as your analytic lens.

(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: “Based on these two passages, I argue that although a century separates their

work, Sarah Winnemucca and Louise Erdrich both show the cultural resilience of the Native

American tribal community.” [you will obviously come up with something better. This is just a

sample; do not use it in your own paper!]

(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


Noticing the lexicon

Explaining your findings

Connecting your passage to other moments in the text, to support your thesis

(6) Conclude by thinking of the larger 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 passages reveal about the world in which the author wrote? What does this concept tell us about literature of the time periods in which these authors are writing?

Sample Solution