The Close Reading Assignment is a gentle way to get us started on the course; improving our understanding of Literature of the nineteenth century. Worth fifteen percent of the course grade, the assignment is to write up a close reading of any one of three of the longer poems from the first weeks of our course: Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh, Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott, or Browning's Childe Roland. The finished paper will be fifteen hundred words in length, and is due in lecture February 25th.
This long period of six weeks for the assignment allows for successive draughts to be worded and edited in seminar; both with peers and with the seminar instructor. The seminar instructer will provide you with a schedule for the dates of the draughts and discussion.
"Close Reading" in our context means reading the text carefully, paying attention first and carefully (i.e. closely) to the words and phrases: their diction, etymology, order, meter, metaphors, associations, and the like. It is starting with the particular before making remark on the general; letting, as far as possible, the poem speak to you before you speak to the poem.
When you have made notes and comments about the specifics, you can then write you discoveries up in essay form, and consider any conclusions about the author and his or her intentions and significance; historical, intellectual or æsthetic.