English 582R
Dr. Morillo
Pope and Swift

First Paper Assignment. Close Reading

Due by noon Friday, February 15, at my office, Tompkins 270

4-6 pages, double-spaced typed/printed text. Standard margins (top & bottom 1" margins; right and left 1.25" margins). If you have any other format questions, ask me.

You may choose from either Swift's prose in Tale of a Tub, or his poetry. For the latter, choose any of the Swift poems from my online collection or the larger Gutenberg edition.  Select no more than one paragraph from the prose, or one stanza or verse paragraph from the poems (unless the poem is very short, and then you may do the whole poem).. Pick any piece whose lines you judge most interesting and relevant to understanding the whole work from which it comes, and do a close reading of those selected lines. Slow down to consider the nuances of language, prosody, allusions, metaphors, meter, rhyme, anything that you feel is most relevant to discuss and necessary to interpret to read your chosen lines well in relation to the larger work well. Then organize your ideas into an argument proposing an interpretation. Even though you will want to discuss details, whether you organize your exposition to follow the original order of the primary text or not will depend on your argument. One challenge with close readings is to avoid mere summary, and sometimes breaking from the sequential order of the original text is a good way to help avoid simply replicating it and to find your own voice.

This assignment requires you to practice your skills in close reading,  You do not, however, have to consult any text beyond your chosen paragraph or part of a poem. You will no doubt make sense of the selection you choose in relation to the whole work from which it comes, but stay as focused as possible on the details of language within, not beyond, your chosen selection.
Even though close-reading skills grew out of the New Criticism, you are not obliged to find their ideals of harmony or unity in your reading. You may wish to work out a passage that instead reveals some interesting disruption of structure, complication of apparent theme or moral, or contradiction (logical, ideological, etc.) between apparent authorial intent and textual meaning as you understand it.

If you pick a passage or poem that we have discussed in some detail in class you are obliged to bring out something personal and original in your reading. Feel free to discuss your developing ideas with me.