In a Tortoiseshell: In her essay, Julia Zhou uses an unconventional primary source to argue that while male-led Chinese TikTok dances engage in gender subversion, they do so by operating within an artistic framework that welcomes innovation. To help readers engage with her analysis, Julia carefully describes key choreographic techniques, then orients readers to the significance of each technique. Having made the dances legible to her readers, she then engages in a rewarding close reading of their choreography.
In a Tortoiseshell: In a paper for the Humanities Sequence, Noori Zubieta strikes a balance between carefully working through her evidence, orienting her reader, and building to a nuanced thesis in a close reading of a passage in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
In a Tortoiseshell: In this close-reading paper written for the Humanities Sequence, Sandra Chen begins with a detailed analysis of a poem’s text to make larger arguments about its meaning.
In a Tortoiseshell: In her East Asian Studies essay on the Taiwanese film Terrorizer, Amy Cass uses close looking techniques to analyze how the film presents photography as a way of seeing and understanding urban reality. Amy uses her engagement with the visuals of the film through careful close looking to provide the evidence for her arguments, which stretch beyond description of the film and into bold, motivated claims.
In a Tortoiseshell: In this excerpt of her essay, Yuxi Zheng solidifies her thesis by analyzing scenes from Dolce & Gabbana commercials. Yuxi takes special care to break down the minute details of each scene to explain the messages conveyed through the dialog, acting, and directorial edits. By engaging in this close looking, Yuxi makes an astute argument that explains why D&G was not able to create an advertisement that successfully catered to the intended Chinese audience. Continue reading
In a Tortoiseshell: In her Junior Paper for the English Department, Liana Cohen interweaves analysis and evidence in her writing through the utilization of eloquent close reading of the films Vertigo and Spirited Away. Indeed, placing her exercises of close-reading alongside richly contextualized analysis of film theorists and Freudian psychoanalysis, Liana crafts a compelling prose that explores how both films attempt to reanimate the past.
While previous issues of Tortoise have highlighted pieces with exemplary sections of “close reading,” none thus far have highlighted what in this issue we are calling “close looking.” Similar to close reading—a description of which can be found here—close looking is essentially the detailed analysis of the presentation of a primary source’s argument. In some instances, close reading and close looking are trying to reconstruct a creator’s intent from their creation itself. Both require the breaking down of individual elements of a piece in order to understand its whole. The trick is the ability to re-associate the reality of an object with the possibilities which existed prior to or during its creation. One must ask, “Why is this feature present? What else could have taken its place, and what effects does its presence have on the piece as a whole knowing what else could have been in its place?”
Despite their similar objectives and questions, close looking utilizes different types of media from close reading. Where the object of a close reading is grounded in text—poetry, novels, speeches—close looking focuses on the visual. From sculptures and photographs to films and even commercials, close looking analyzes those media whose evidence comes in the form of color, shape, size, materiality, and even time. It can be difficult to translate one’s experience with close reading to the act of close looking and vice versa, since one must readjust their expectations and relearn how to break down pieces into analyzable components. But understanding how to do so opens worlds of evidence to authors with the gusto to take them on.
This section features authors who have mastered the act of close looking. Pay attention to what parts they dissect their objects of analysis into and how they then reassemble those parts to create deeper meanings.
In a Tortoiseshell: In this excerpt from his Junior Paper on the Japanese film Perfect Blue, Jacob Williams analyzes the motif of glass surfaces and their relation to Mima’s flattening: the process by which the original character’s “existence in its show is crushed into a singular image, one whose use of limited animation emphasizes the fact that it does not pretend to be alive in the same way that a fully animated character does.” Jacob performs insightful close analysis and more importantly, demonstrates how this kind of analysis can be used to support the paper’s broader argument.
In a Tortoiseshell: In this excerpt, author Liana Cohen puts a new twist on a common assignment: close reading. Beginning with a close analysis of a photograph, Liana combines her observations with knowledge of the image’s historical and artistic context to make her argument.
In a Tortoiseshell: Madelyn Broome’s “The Language of Monstrosity” argues that in film adaptations of Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein, the creature’s lack of language leads to a lack of depth in audiences’ emotional responses to the creature’s misfortunes. This excerpt highlights the author’s use of her key term “human” not just as a familiar tool with which to support her argument, but as a mechanism for creating motive.