Close reading vs. Distant reading

When I hear the words “close reading”, I instantly think of paying close attention to the details of the text. It was not until I read the required reading for this week that I found out exactly how detailed and time consuming it was. The Shakespeare’s sonnet is made up with certain rules, like: not surpassing 14 lines, identifying a problem, as well as, a solution, and having a rhythm or rhyme. To fully understand what a “close reading” is, one must point out it’s benefits and it’s drawbacks. Benefits of close reading are: fine-toothed editing, disciplinary reading, great detail, and thought provoking. When I use close reading, I find that one must completely engulf themselves in the text to fully understand the meaning that the author intended. In doing this, it brings life and breath to the text. I have come to the conclusion that there are more benefits than drawbacks to close reading due to the fact that the text is dissected in a beautiful way and it is fully appreciated. The only two drawbacks of close reading that I can think of are: one, there are too many facets so that the reader may feel lost or overwhelmed by the text. The second drawback is the incapability of dissecting the text due to misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the words used. I feel like it does take time, patience and practice to fully understand the material, and some people do not have the skill or diligence to complete the task.

On the other side of the spectrum, “distant reading”, in my mind, is large masses of text material that is read by merely skimming over it. In this form of reading, the information that the author is trying to portray may not be fully understood. The benefits of “distant reading” are: mass amounts of material that can be covered in a short amount of time. This enables the reader the accessibility of all kinds of information. The drawbacks of “distant reading” are: an individual cannot fully understand nor appreciate the work of the author or the information that is shared.

Personally, I would choose “close reading” over “distant reading” mainly because I can put myself in the shoes of the writer and enjoy the material like the author may have. Even though it takes a longer period of time to go through the text word for word, it is rewording in the end.

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