To Thwart Close Reading

*As a disclaimer, this is not a fully analytical post. In a 400 level college class and the intelligent discourse that comes along with that, I wasn’t sure where to put these thoughts, so I decided to use the blog space, but perhaps even here isn’t the right place.*

When we were discussing the epigraph for Jazz, Dr. McCoy said that she believes the lines can’t be reconciled and that maybe as readers we need to think about beauty. That resonated with me, because as an English major obviously I love analyzing texts: their meanings, reader interpretations vs. authorial intentions, and literary elements. As an future teacher, I love helping others come to their own conclusions about texts as well.


I believe that often in college classes, students fall into two categories. Either they are so stressed by other classes that they skim through reading just trying to finish the assigned pages even if it means losing sleep, sanity, or both. The opposite of that is the students who become obsessed finding the underlying meaning of every sentence, word, and sound. And that’s not a bad thing- we have to go deeper into texts than we have ever attempted before because that’s why people take literature classes in college. I believe that there is a quality of beauty in literature that sometimes get ignored, or rather overlooked.

Toni Morrison’s work helps me escape this. Her writing is some of the best I’ve ever read, there are lines that take my breath away. In A Mercy, I read the line “There is no protection but there is difference” and closed my eyes I was so overcome with emotion. Once I finished Beloved, I literally could not focus on anything else. I called anyone I knew who had read the novel so I could discuss the sea of feelings that I couldn’t even totally decipher.
With Jazz, Morrison’s aim is to have the “structure equal meaning” and so I have high hopes that I will be able to once again be taken into those special states that only good literature can bring. As English majors and lovers of literature as well as stressed out college kids, I think we (or at least I) need to remember to appreciate the beauty of language as I read.

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