English 260

Introduction to Literary Studies

Dr. Morillo


Close-Reading Fiction: Paper Assignment

5 full pages-first page is a copy of your chosen passage, pages 2-5 are your interpretation

Due Monday, February 13, printed out on paper, in class

For this paper you will be choosing one paragraph of The Turn of the Screw to interpret.  Select any passage you feel has special significance for what is within the passage itself and is pertinent to something  important for understanding the whole story.  To guide your choice, imagine having to teach the novel with just that one paragraph of it. Which passage might give your reader a strong example of what makes that novel interesting? complex? weird? successful writing? flawed writing?

To guide your close-reading method, imagine reading this prose selection with the care often reserved for reading lyric poetry.  You will of course be interpreting the passage in light of your knowledge of the whole text, from which it is excerpted, but you will be expected to focus as particularly and carefully as possible on the specific words in the passage you pick.  You may look for significant elements of themes, plot, character, prose style, or combinations thereof.  You will need to avoid merely summarizing or paraphrasing the passage. Pick something that intrigues and needs to be explained so you avoid just stating the obvious.

When you have chosen and read your passage carefully, construct a well-formed argument, with a clear main point, about the passage. It may well be that the original, chronological order of your passage is not the best order for your argument about it. Give your paper a title reflecting what your argument is about. What to argue about, and how to arrange your evidence and explanation of it, however, is up to you.  Give yourself time to draft and then revise the paper.

Feel free to discuss any proposed passage with me in person or via email.


Quiz: The Turn of the Screw

1. Who reads the governess's autobiographical story to the crowd by the Christmas fire?

2. What happens to Miles at school that the governess finds so very shocking and unbelievable?

3. What is the name of the former governess to Miles and Flora?

4. What is the name of the dead man Mrs. Grose identifies as the uncle's former valet (a kind of manservant)?

5. What happens to Miles at the end of the Governess's story?

6. What is one significant difference between the 1898 American version of the story and the 1908 London edition?