English 101, Section 013

D. Vilhotti

October 23, 2007


Project Three: Close Reading and Interpretation of a “Text” / Analysis of Professional Interpretations


Purposes: Project 3, Part I demonstrates…         


Audience:          Your audience for this project is a group of fellow students who are

interested in your interpretation of a literary work with which they are familiar.         



Part I:  The Close Reading and Interpretation

We have learned that the primary unit of analysis in the humanities is the word (or image or meter…). Unlike inquiry in the natural and social sciences, which relies primarily on numbers (or quantitative measures) for scientific research, with the aim of objectivity, investigations in the humanities are necessarily non-objective, because words (and images and music) are fraught with layers of meaning that undermine the possibility of objectivity.  Thus, humanistic inquiry relies on interpretation, on reading the world as a text that offers a multiplicity of meaning, in order to make meaning.  Interpretation, we have further learned, is a complicated endeavor that requires the ability to read texts closely. These readings, or interpretations, always reflect particular theories or philosophies themselves that reflect the values (personal, political, and otherwise) of the interpreter.


Part I:  In the first part of this project, you will complete a close reading, or primary source analysis, of one of the following:


Short Story

See http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/literature.html for direction

·         Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”  (for full text: http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/158/)

·         William Falkner’s “A Rose for Emily” (http://www.ariyam.com/docs/lit/wf_rose.html)

·         Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” (http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~surette/goodman.html)

·         Kate Chopin’s “Desiree’s Baby” (http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/DesiBaby.shtml)



See http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/poetry-explication.html for direction

Any selection from:

·         Walt Whitman

·         Theodore Roethke

·         Ann Sexton

·         William Carlos Williams

·         W.B. Yeats

·         Allen Ginsberg

·         Samuel Taylor Coleridge



See http://www.dartmouth.edu/~writing/materials/student/humanities/film.shtml for direction

·         Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner

·         David Lynch’s Blue Velvet

·         Martin Scorecese’s Raging Bull

·         Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window

·         Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby

·         Quentin Tarrantino’s Pulp Fiction



See http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/arthistory.html for direction

·         Edward Hopper’s Night Hawks, or any Edward Hopper painting

·         Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, or any Gustav Klimt painting

·         Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, or any Picasso painting

·         Vincent VanGogh’s Starry Night, or any Van Gogh painting

·         Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving, or any Rockwell painting

·         Nick Ut’s 1972 photograph of Kim Phuc (comparison to Banksy image allowed)



(A helpful handout coming soon)

·         Pink Floyd’s “Time”

·         Any track on Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die, or the album as a whole

·         Bruce Springstein’s “Born in the USA,” “The River,” “Born to Run,” or any Springstein song (or combination of several songs)

·         Radiohead’s “Drunken Punch-up at a Wedding,” or most any Radiohead song

·         Classical or jazz pieces also welcome

·         Other ideas invited


As a model for reading closely, follow the procedures we’ve practiced in class.  Pay attention to each word, phrase, image, and sound as a unit of meaning. As you read/view the text and make notes, also consider the ways you are interacting with the text:  what kinds of questions are you asking of the text?  For instance, are you looking at its formal elements—symbol, metaphor, imagery, tone, diction, structure?  Are you considering authorial intent?  Are you considering the historical and cultural context of the story? What kinds of emotions and what other ideas does the story evoke in you?  The questions you ask of the text point to the kind of interpretation you will ultimately offer to your reader.


Once your close reading is complete, you will formulate a thesis (or a claim) about the text that reflects one of the theoretical models for interpretation discussed in Chapter 5 of K&S.  More specifically, your thesis and your interpretation should reflect either an intentionalist, mimetic, pragmatic or formalist reading of the text.  Remember that intentionalist readings include those that would reflect or involve elements beyond the formal features of the work itself.  An intentionalist reading might consider the personal life of the artist, the author’s intentions, the historical or social context in which the work of art was produced, or the psychology of the artist to make meaning of the work.  Intentionalist interpretations thus almost always require research to complete successfully.  Mimetic and Pragmatic readings may also require outside research. By contrast, a formalist reading would suggest that the text can be understood fully on its own terms; reading the text fully means understanding its component elements and the unity or lack of unity in those elements. You should not use any outside information to fully understand the work of art, because “nothing outside the text determines its ultimate meaning” (K&S, p. 334).  The particular theoretical frame you employ for “reading” the literary text will ultimately establish the structure and organization of your paper.  Your interpretation, based on your close reading and guided by your thesis statement, should be about 4 pages in length. Employ plentiful and specific textual evidence throughout your interpretation as support.


Due: First Draft: Thursday, Nov. 1         Final Draft: Monday, 5


Required 10-minute conference dates: Thursday or Friday, Nov. 1 & 2




Technical Considerations:

·Length:  7 to 8 pages overall; 4 for interpretation, 3-4 page minimum for analysis

·Grading Weight:  20% of course average

·Documentation:  The paper is aimed at an audience of students who are studying the humanities.  Thus, the appropriate form of documentation would be the MLA method.  The Longman Handbook provides specific details for how to document according to MLA guidelines, if you have questions.