The joys of closely reading someone else closely reading

Close reading describes, in literary criticism, the careful, sustained interpretation of a brief passage of text. Such a reading places great emphasis on the single particular over the general, paying closeattention to individual words, syntax, and the order in which sentences and ideas unfold as they are read. (Wikipedia)

I know full well that I will never be able to read as many books as pique my interest. Even if my full time job was to read, I wouldn’t be able to do it. There’s just too much out there. So I was enormously pleased when I discovered that there are several blogs out there that publish regular posts in which they closely read classic books:

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“Text Rain,” by Kyungduk Kim

I daresay there are more out there. I found these through trawling other bookish blogs, for the most part. Three of them I found because they had challenged each other to read Charlotte Brontë’s Villette—which I read and hated. (I was looking for other reactions to the book.) If you know of more close readers and are willing to share, please post them in the comments.

Reading these blogger’s thoughts about Villette and Far from the Madding Crowd and others reminds me of hanging out with other English majors, hashing out metaphors and interpretations. Reading is, by and large, a solitary activity, but I think that we can’t fully unlock a book without consulting with other readers.Others have read criticism that I’ve never heard of; they have context I don’t. If we only read alone, we can only pull from out own experiences. Reading together (or reading someone else’s close reading) can reveal previously hidden meanings or clarify passages that don’t make sense at first.

I still don’t like Villette, but I have hopes that Wuthering Expectation’s thoughts about Far from the Madding Crowd will help me when I finally tackle it.

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2 thoughts on “The joys of closely reading someone else closely reading

  1. An excellent point about reading with others enhancing your own understanding of a book. I do miss that about my university days and I think that finding other book bloggers out there has been the answer to that craving. I also love doing close readings of books, though I think my own personal skill for doing that has diminished quite greatly. Sometimes “Um, it was really good” are the only words that emerge 🙂
    -Tania

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  2. Annie

    I’m a little ashamed to admit that when I hear someone say “It was [insert adjective here],” I turn into an obnoxious toddler: “But why was it [adjective]?” “But why?”

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