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.
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 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.
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.
In a Tortoiseshell: In her essay about the relationships of the protagonists in Umberto Saba’s “Ernesto” and the 2017 film Call Me By Your Name, Bes Arnaout navigates the difficulty of arguing for the existence of a relationship paradigm that the theory has not considered. In doing so, Bes creatively extends her motive, that the critics have gotten the relationship wrong, to ground readers as they move through the paper. She is therefore able to motivate close-readings at critical moments to extend her thesis, which would otherwise become amorphous. In doing so, Bes opens up a new avenue for writers who want to argue something but lack the language to categorize it in existing theoretical terms.
In a Tortoiseshell: In this paper about introspection in To The Lighthouse, Carolyn Kelly’s against-the-grain approach to Woolf’s novel examines the significance of smaller, less obvious details as they recur throughout the text. In the first paragraph of her introduction, Kelly constructs motive by orienting readers to how water imagery in To the Lighthouse is typically read. She then disrupts this context in the following paragraphs, illustrating why and how her close reading of overlooked bodies of water in the text can shed light on Woolf’s large project.