Why should we care about English and close reading?

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Why should we care about English and close reading?

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Marked declines in the number of English majors across the United States since 2009 pose a threat to English’s existence as an academic discipline. In American culture, English is not perceived as having the same kind of practicality or material necessity as other disciplines, such as STEM. This is due in part to the fact that English lacks a concrete body of knowledge such as that which characterizes the STEM fields. English scholars and teachers who believe English belongs in the university have been forced to consider questions including: What kinds of ideas or skills should English education teach? How should these skills be taught? Are these skills still valuable and somehow applicable in the modern world? This essay examines one way that English scholars and academics have attempted to assuage the reservations around the institutionalization of English: close reading. English scholars have utilized and advertised the practice of close reading as a method for adapting and organizing English into a more systematic, teachable subject. As a result, close reading’s place within English study possesses similarities to English study’s position within the university. Like English, literary critics and scholars do not agree on close reading’s definition or value in English education. Looking more closely at the relationship between close reading and the English discipline sheds light on the nature and value of English in the modern world. Although the value of English and close reading is contentious, the world does need English majors and the English major does benefit from teaching close reading. This essay supports synthesizes historical evidence, contemporary scholarly articles, and a personal performance of critical reading in order to support this claim. The evidence reveals a quantified correlation between reading and empathy, as well as a relationship between close reading and learning. These results suggest reading and close reading may not be as systematic or definitive as other disciplines, but the skills developed through English education are, in fact, widely applicable. Therefore, this essay argues, the university should value close reading and English education and ensure they do not disappear.


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Tynjala, Molly. (2018). Why should we care about English and close reading?. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/208559.

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