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This LibGuide provides information on where to start when you read poetry and how to conduct a Close Reading, as well as general guidelines on how to research for papers.

Getting Started

A Close Reading can be a bit overwhelming at first, so you want to take this one step at a time.

  1. The first step is to identify what you want to examine. 
  2. Choose one thing to focus upon.  See the list below for things you might consider: 
  • figurative language
  • evoking the senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste)
  • patterns of repetition
  • patterns of opposition
  • appeal to emotion
  • appeal to self-interest
  • appeal to authority
  • fallacies
  • bias (either implicit or explicit), gender (language, expectations of, etc.)
  • tense shifting (present tense, past tense, future tense)
  • tone (sarcastic, nostalgic, etc. – use textual evidence)
  • themes (e.g. Death is inescapable; absolute power corrupts absolutely; etc.)
  • conflicts (e.g. Person versus Person, Person versus Nature, Person versus Self, etc.)
  • Punctuation, spacing, and page breaks
  • And much more!

Once you have chosen a focus, you now want to find a quote.  You might focus on a specific word choice within the quote.  You might be looking at examples of figurative language, such as a metaphor or simile, both of which are very common in poetry.  Consider the following lines from the poem "Harlem" by Langston Hughes:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?

Notice that I have focused on just three lines to start.  You want to break things into manageable chunks.  In the first line, you will want to pull out the specific word "deferred," as this has very specific connotations.  You will also want to consider "like a raisin in the sun," which is a simile.  Now that you have chosen a couple of lines, you will want to analyze them.


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