visual argument

Close Reading Worksheet

For example, look at


. What kinds of words does the author use? Look up any that

are unfamiliar. Does she or he aim for lofty diction (used for special occasions) or

common diction? Are the words long or short, Latinate or Anglo-Saxon, specialized (i.e.

legalistic, medical, jargon, elite) or ordinary? Remember that the rules for diction are

different at different times in history.

The PowerPoints for this week:

Rhetorical Strategies


Rhetorical Devices

can help

you narrow down what you want to focus on for your close reading.

3. Next, look at

sentence structure

. Can you map the sentences (find the subject

and verb, locate phrases and clauses)? Does the author use active or passive

verbs? What rhythms or patterns does the sentence structure create—long flowing

ones, short choppy ones—and how do these relate to the meaning?

4. Does the passage contain

figurative language

? What sensory images or

metaphors or similes do you observe? What is the significance or effect of the

author’s use or lack of figurative language?

5. What do you notice about the


of the passage overall? Does it have a

climax or significant turning point? How does it organize or develop its ideas,

impressions, or themes?

6. You can also analyze


. Is the narrator being straightforward, factual, open?

Or is he taking a less direct route toward his meaning? Does the voice carry

emotion? Or is it detached from its subject? Do you hear irony? If so, what do you

make of it?

7. Once you have a grasp of the language, you can begin to look for

problems or


in your reading of the passage, to move beyond

description to


. What are the effects of the technical features of the passage? In

the example above, you may discover some difference between what the author

appears to be doing (giving you a complete, unbiased narrative) and what she also

accomplishes (raising doubts about the narrator’s point of view, whether he fully

understands the implications of what he’s seen, whether this narrator can be

trusted, etc.). You can now begin to talk about the ways Shelley’s language,



to invite our confidence, is also raising these doubts.

8. At this point, you can propose a generic


, something like, “In this

passage, Shelley raises questions about Victor Frankenstein’s character through

her contrast between the violence Frankenstein witnesses and his seemingly

bland, even inappropriate response to it.” You can proceed to fill in the outlines of

this point by explaining what you mean, using details and quotations from the

passage to support your point.

9. You still need an argument and will need to go back to your opening to sharpen

the thesis. The question is


? Or

to what effect


Your thesis might build on

what you’ve already written by suggesting the larger implications of your

observations and by structuring your paper more rigorously.

10. Using this method to get started, you will have achieved some very important

things, namely:

1) you have chosen a specific piece of the text to work with, hence avoiding

generalizations and abstractions that tend to turn a reader off;

2) you have moved from exposition (explaining or summarizing what’s there) to

arguing a point, which will involve your reader in a more interactive and risky


3) you have carved out your


reading of the text rather than taking the more

well-worn path;

4) you have identified something about Shelley’s method that may well open up

other areas of the text for study and debate. Bravo!

11. With your more refined thesis in place, you can go back and make sure your

supporting argument explains the questions you’ve raised, follows through on

your argument, and comes to a provocative conclusion. By the end, you may be

able to expand from your initial passage to a larger point, but use your

organization to keep the reader focused all the way.

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