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 her paper, Katherine McIntire analyzes the Disney World theme park “Frontierland,” arguing that by relying on the historically inaccurate concept of the lone cowboy it promotes problematic values that are antithetical to Walt Disney’s philosophy. Her incredibly clear introduction orients the reader to the analytic work she plans to do and to the many sources she plans to consult while constructing her argument. By giving herself space to tease out the specifics of her primary source and the various key terms relevant to her argument, Katherine effectively lays the groundwork for her motive and thesis. Continue reading
In a Tortoiseshell: In her essay on William Wordsworth’s famous poem “Lines Written a few miles above Tintern Abbey,” Julia Walton enters the scholarly conversation with an against-the-grain reading of the function of William’s sister, Dorothy, in the poem. After establishing a clear motive for her reconsideration of this text, Julia combines meticulous close reading with evidence drawn from period sources to support her original thesis. Julia’s essay has been selected as our feature piece; it is published in its entirety to show how Julia’s many pedagogically successful moves work together to create a full, well-written essay. Continue reading
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 her paper, Debby Cheng utilizes her thesis to roadmap her text to explore the nuances surrounding the distribution of blame within the black community during the AIDS epidemic prior to the introduction of an effective treatment. Using enriching and creative sources to provide evidence to her claims, Debby efficiently asks the reader to question, just as she does, the role of the heterosexual black man as the “invisible” force that perpetuated the spread of HIV in the United States during the last two decades of the 20th century.
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.
One of the most difficult sections of any paper is its beginning. The expectation of an opening that captures and holds readers’ attention while still communicating necessary set-up for an argument is certainly daunting. Nearly all the concepts from the Lexicon must find their way into the start of a paper in the exact right quantities; lots of motive in an introduction is usually desired, whereas very little analysis is wanted or needed so early on. Couple this with the fact that there are infinite possible ways to start a paper, and it may feel downright impossible to accomplish successfully at times.
Rather than focusing solely on thesis or motive, this section highlights papers that successfully incorporate these terms while also orienting the reader, introducing necessary sources, and defining key terms. Pay close attention to the relationships between ideas in sentences and clauses themselves, since it is at this level where the beginning of a paper can truly finds its greatness.
Tortoise: A Journal of Writing Pedagogy is an annual journal that publishes excerpts of student scholarship from within the Princeton community. Showcasing writers from all disciplines and levels—both Princeton undergraduate and graduate students—we emphasize the writing process as much as its “finished” product.
Tortoise publishes excerpts of exemplary academic writing with reflective commentaries on the research and writing methods underpinning the prose. Our ambition at Tortoise is not only to share student writing with a wider audience but also to demonstrate how it works and how it was developed.
Our Spring 2020 issue, entitled “Top-notch Tactics,” is a compilation of excerpts (as well as one full-length feature piece) each of which poses a different answer to the question,
What does it look like when you get down to the nitty gritty of writing a paper?
Whether this answer takes the form of a discussion of the role of “close looking” in a paper on film — comments on developing a thesis in a Woody Woo policy recommendation — thoughts on the role of exposition in mathematics — or anything in between, our authors and editors delve into the many small tactics that take us from an idea to an outline to a finished piece.
I would like to add a special note of thanks to our authors, editors, the staff of the Writing Center, and everyone else who helped to make this issue possible. We all know that this semester has been anything but what we expected, and that any number of things fell by the wayside in the general hubbub. I think I speak for the entire Tortoise staff when I tell you how happy we are that we are able to present this issue to you today nevertheless. Again, I would like to send out a very heartfelt thank you to everyone who contributed to this issue and helped bring it to where it is today. We hope you enjoy the issue!