Essay 1

Close reading:

Choose one passage from a story we’ve read thus far and analyze closely, paying particular attention to:

1.) tone (and how, specifically, it is achieved)

2.) voice (what is the narrator’s relatonship to the speaker? do you find any parallels, any tensions, between the narrative and the character?)

3) language (images, figurative language, repeated words, connotations vs denotation, surprising usuage)

4.) soud patterns (sibilance, plosive consonants, repeated vowels, etc.)

5.) sentence structure (long sentences, short sentences, phrases, interrupting clauses, fragments, parallel constructions, etc)

6.) symbol

7.) allusion (reference to another text)

8.) unexpected similarities without apparent differences or surprising differences within apparent similarities

9.) themes (but be careful! themes can lead you to generalizations–make sure you are using your themes, not just noticing them)

Essay 2

For this essay, I ask that you choose one device that we’ve looked at (time, voice/pov, or characterization) and analyze one story through this lens.

Your essay should make an argument—it should posit, then develop and support, an arguable claim.

Though in this essay you will be using more than one passage as textual evidence—you might, in fact, use many small moments— you will still need to make use of your close reading skills. Avoid writing in generalization; get inside your text and live there. For example, It is not enough to say “In “The Love of a Good Man”, Monisha remembers her mother often because she is not yet over her death”, and then proceed to list places in the text where this occurs. Yes, this is a valid observation, but it states the obvious. Your essay should be an exploration into meaning—that is, you should always be answering the “so what” question. And even within the specific device “time” you will need to narrow your scope. You could analyze the significance of the flashback structure, discussing why each memory comes in at that specific point, how that drives the story’s present—and why any of it matters. Or you could write about how she organizes her life (and her story) through her mother’s catch-phrases, and how and why that gradually begins to change. You could look at the parallels between her the man in her life now and the man whose absence has haunted her for years.  Or, if you wanted to write about time in “Proper Library”, you could analyze how and when time slows, speeds up, flashes into the past in Lorrie’s first person narration—and, of course, why that matters to your reading experience, to his character, or to some larger theme you see at work in the story. Time in “Proper Library” does not operate as time in traditional narratives do; what does this unconventionality mirror, or why does it matter? Or what about that frame narrative of “All the Way in Flagstaff, Arizona”—why does Bausch pingpong his readers through time this way? There’s the present (the church), the near past (that picnic), the nearer past (life and divorce after the picnic), the distant past (Walter’s abuse). What does it teach us about the story? About Walter, conflicted and complex as he is? About your own method of reading, your own expectations and stereotypes?

Be always on the look out for patterns and anomalies: in language, in tone, in sentence structure, in narrative structure, within an individual character or between two or more, in details (objects, actions, those descriptions that, at first glance, appear gratuitous), in symbol systems,  in setting, in focalization and narrative distance,etc.

Feel free to use the Welty article if you choose; she has some wonderful things to say about “time” and its importance in the fictional universe. Just make sure that you acknowledge the influence.

Good luck! If you have any questions, please feel free to email me!


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