Skip to main content

Spotlight on: Close Reading, Critical Writing


Students sit around a long table, discussing literature. In past weeks, the class has discussed the works of Wilfred Owens, Emily Dickinson and John Donne. But, this is not a typical English class. This is English 200: Close Reading, Critical Writing.

Here, students discuss an author's intentions, the choices that are made. It is not about discussing opinions about the work and seeking the approval or disapproval of other students or the teacher. In this class, the main goal is to figure out what the author's intention was, and discussion in class is used to reach that point.

In most English classes, people are familiar with listening to the teacher talk about what the symbols and being told what the symbols represent. In English 200, the students talk about what they think the poem or story means. The class is about working off of each other's ideas and trying to understand literature. Being able to fully comprehend what is on the page is a good skill to obtain, as it is very important.

For homework, students write brief, two pages responses to the works discussed in class. These papers focus on a how, why and so what. The how is the choice that an author has made. The why is how that choice affects the poem and the so what addresses the reader, telling them why they should care.