Essay 1- Close Reading Essay

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Essay 1- Close Reading Essay

Length: 2-3 pages (~500-750 words)

Format:  Typed, double-spaced, 12 point standard font (Times New Roman or Garamond), one-inch margins, 8.5×11 paper. Essay should be properly formatted and cited in MLA style (both in-text and a separate Works Cited page).

Prompt: The first essay is a formal thesis-driven essay of literary analysis based on a close reading of a single passage from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust (1808). Your job is to investigate what a single passage says and how it works. Starting from a careful examination of both the content and form of a passage, your interpretation will explain what is revealed from this analysis and how this connects to Goethe’s Faust as a whole. Ultimately, the goal of your paper is to move from the particular to the general; starting from your particular passage, think about what this brings to light about the larger work. Though your primary focus will be one specific passage, your paper should make connections to other parts of the text—particularly where there are parallels or to show the peculiarity of this specific passage. I encourage you to approach this by moving through a process of observation (what is the passage expressing?) to a detailed analysis (how is it expressing it?). Finally, your insights will make up your interpretation (why is it being expressed this way? how does the form relate to the content? How does this relate to the rest of Faust?).


-You are required to have a thesis that states your interpretation. The thesis (not necessarily just one sentence) should be an answer to the question: by looking at the relation between content and form in this specific passage, what insight might this offer on Faust as a whole? Remember that a good thesis should tell me what you’re going to argue, explore and explain, and why it is important. Avoid something very general or vague, and something purely descriptive. Aim for a small, specific claim: something that has some tension and drama; something that needs to be proved.

-The close reading essay is neither just a paraphrase/summary of the passage nor a list of the formal devices. So, in most cases it will not make sense to analyze the passage in the order of the passage. Structure your paper around your argument, not the arrangement of the passage on the page. Essay 1- Close Reading Essay

-Be sure to cite the text (and, any other sources used, for example, the Oxford English Dictionary) properly and carefully. Address the majority of what you quote and do not assume the text is self-explanatory. Remember that what matters here is your interpretation—the text needs your explanation.

-A non-exhaustive list of what you might  take note of formally: repetitions, word choices (diction, repetition, etymology, denotation & connotation), point of view, whether senses are evoked (visual, aura, emotional) or whether the reactions are more abstract judgements, audience, use of details and omissions, irony, figurative language (similes, metaphors, personification, imagery), grammar and syntax (simple vs. complex, clear or obscure, hypotaxis & parataxis, ordering of sentences), material of language (typography, formatting, punctuation, alliteration, assonance, rhythm, tempo, rhyme).

-Remember the importance of academic honesty. All work you submit should be your own, and any words, ideas, or information you borrow must be documented. Plagiarism is a serious offense that (depending on the severity of the case) will result in a failing grade, and in more serious cases a failure in the course and a mark on your permanent academic record, as well as possible disciplinary action.


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