Explication de texte

Or, how to do a close reading of a literary passage
The Game Plan
 Read the Text
 Look for Patterns
 Interpret the Text
Read the Text
 Consider typing a copy of the text.
 Read text once for comprehension.
 Read text again.
 Look up unfamiliar words.
 Write a quick summary of content.
 Read text again. Out loud.
 React with your pen.
 Read text again.
 Read text again.
 Repeat ad nauseum, marking the poem as you go.
e. e. cummings
into the strenuous briefness
handorgans and April
darkness, friends
i charge laughing.
Into the hair-thin tints
of yellow dawn,
into the women-coloured twilight
i smilingly glide. I
into the big vermilion departure
swim, sayingly;
(Do you think?) the
i do, world
is probably made
of roses & hello:
(of solongs and, ashes)
Look for Patterns: zoom in!
 Examine diction (word choice)
 Identify and look up any unknown words.
 even if you think you know!
 Key words or phrases
 Strands (our favorite )
 Contradictory words?
 Repeated words
 Does the meaning change?
 Connotation and puns
 Multiple meanings?
More Looking for Patterns: take your time!
 Figurative Language
 Comparisons: metaphors and similes
 Imagery
 Symbols
 List implications and suggested meanings
 Form
 Structure: verse vs. prose
 Rhyme: what is the rhyme? How does the rhyme affect the mood?
 Rhythm: meter? syllables?
 Rhetorical tropes: alliteration; assonance; chiasmus; anaphora;
parallelism; antitheses; irony
Look for Patterns, continued.
 Examine the passage:
 What is the tone of the passage?
 Who is the speaker? Whose point of view is
 Who is the speaker addressing, if anyone?
 Are there any allusions in the passage?
 Literary, biblical, historical, or otherwise
 Are there any paradoxes?
 Is anything conspicuous by its absence?
Interpret the Text
 Ask “Why?” and “So what?”
 Why does the writer use this word instead of another
similar word?
Why does the author choose this form? This style?
This tone? This metaphor?
Why does the writer pair these two ideas? Why does
she place these two in antithesis?
So what if x represents y? How is that significant?
What is the big idea of the poem?
 Write, scribble, think, rethink! Don’t give up!
Do’s and don’ts when writing the paper
 Analyze
 don’t summarize
 It’s all about the text
 don’t guess the “right” answer
 don’t assume any and all interpretations will work
 Dig deeply
 don’t fill with generalizations (i.e., repeating the same idea
in different words or citing massive quotes from “experts”)
 Your reaction is not the text
 don’t evaluate
 Remember: The Writing Center is here for you!
 MWF 1-5 p.m.
 T/R 12:30-5 p.m.
 M-R 7-11 p.m.
 SKYPE for nonresidential students: 7-9 p.m., M-R
 One-hour sessions available to all students in LIT
2090, Literary Analysis, and all students writing
papers longer than 8 pages for 3000- or 4000-level
courses. Just sign up for two 30-minute sessions backto-back. 

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