So I'm writing my next English paper at the moment. It's a much clearer topic, and I've done a fairly good job at papers like this in the past, but I just thought a quote and some ranting might go a long way to explain the problem I have with this guy. So here goes nothing:
The general purpose of a close reading essay is clear: If you can read a paragraph in a book, you can read the entire book; if you can read one poem by an author you can read other poems by the same poet; if you can read a soliloquy or other speech you can read the entire play. This is not to say that writing a close reading essay automatically means you can immediately understand every work by the same author. Few people would insist that reading a passage from a short story from James Joyce's Dubliners makes it possible to read Finnegan's Wake. What a close reading essay gives you is the skill upon which you can build, an approach to any other text you will encounter.
Ok. Well that's bullshit! But then it's literary criticism, so that goes with the territory I suppose. But I think there's something wrong with this idea. I mean it basically means says that practical analyses of literature can happen without context, which can't be the case.
Can you read and understand paragraph or even a page from "To Kill a Mocking Bird" and understand the book? Can you read a paragraph from Carl Sagan's Contact (ok, perhaps not a favorite of Literature teachers, yet, but it's a great book in my opinion) and understand what he's talking about. Can you read a passage from Galileo (by Brecht) and understand the play. (I'd argue that it would even be possible to understand the play, from a literarily perspective even after you read the whole damn thing, but that's an aside.) And Ellison's Invisible Man is very similar. The analytical perspective required to take on a short passage of prose (now, poetry is obviously a little different), will grant you the ability to look at other short passages of prose, but entire works must be approached differently.
I mean the most important thing is that in a short passage, themes and motifs and other literary embellishments that may be present but completely unrecognizable as such in a shorter section. Literature is ultimately about contexts, so critical schools which are anti-contextual seem especially pointless and particularly stupid.
Anyway. Back to the Grind.