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Close Reading

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by

Jesse O'Neill

on 21 August 2014

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Transcript of Close Reading

Over the next few days, you will begin the process of doing your own close reading of a primary source, which will culminate in well-researched multi-media product.
We'll explore what it means to do a close reading of a primary source
read a letter from Abe Lincoln, and ask some preliminary questions about it
view a mentor text which offers a close reading of the document
try some guided practice on a different primary source

What's on for today?
Reading like an historian
What do historians look for when they read primary sources?
With a partner or small group, work through Lincoln’s letter to Eliza Browning again, this time seeing it through the lens of an historian:
What details in the letter are of
historical importance
here? What is in need of
explanation
? What is the letter’s
context
and
subtext
? What is in need of
research
?
What would be the
steps
we would undertake to produce a close reading of the document?
Mentor Text
"A Fair Match for Falstaff" offers a close reading of Lincoln's Letter to Eliza Browning, and incorporates additional primary and secondary sources.

View the video, then discuss your noticings.

View the blog post here: http://oneill.quora.com/AFairMatchforFalstaff
Abe in love...sort of...
Did you ever have a crush on someone for awhile, and then couldn’t believe you ever liked that person in the first place? Have you ever made a promise that, later, you really, really didn’t want to keep?

Can you imagine that those things happened to Abe Lincoln, before he became president?

Let’s read a letter that Abraham Lincoln wrote to his friend Eliza Browning, in which he relates some of the details of his failed relationship with Mary Owens:
http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/letter-to-eliza-browning-april-1-1838/
Guided Practice
Close Reading Abe Lincoln

What are your immediate reactions?
What is going on here?
What surprised you?
What confused you?
What made you laugh?
What questions do you have?
A close reading, according to Matthew Pinsker, a professor of history at Dickinson, is a short, thoughtful essay that offers an examination of a primary source. A close reading considers the text of the primary source (it analyzes and summarizes the text), context (it puts it in its historical place) and subtext (it considers other meanings and interpretations, things that may have been left out, etc.).
Today’s lesson will help you hone the skills you will need to produce your own close reading.

Close Reading
A close reading, according to Matthew Pinsker, a professor of history at Dickinson, is

a short, thoughtful essay/product
an examination of a primary source
considers the
text
of the primary source (it analyzes and summarizes the text),
context
(it puts it in its historical place) and
subtext
(it considers other meanings and interpretations, things that may have been left out, etc.).

Guided Practice
Let’s work through a partial close reading of a short primary source together: Lincoln’s letter to Grace Bedell, October 19, 1860, responding to her suggestion that he grow whiskers: http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/25339
Let’s annotate it together, using Genius.com, here: http://history.genius.com/Abraham-lincoln-letter-to-grace-bedell-annotated
Questions to consider:
What details are of historical importance here? What is in need of explanation? What is the letter’s context and subtext? What is in need of research?
What would be the steps we would undertake to produce a close reading of the document?


Note that helpful context for doing a close reading of this document would include:
Grace Bedell to Abraham Lincoln, October 15, 1860: http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/25340
Abraham Lincoln's Remarks at Westfield, New York, February 16, 1861: http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/25338
Guided Practice, con't
Independent Research and Writing to Produce a Multi-Media Project
What will it look like?
a blog post on Quora, video podcast on YouTube, annotations on Genius, a Storify presentation, or Prezi, among other options.
Am I in this by myself?
you may work with a partner
we will spend several days in the library to give you time to collaborate, research, draft, and ask lots of questions


Next steps:
Use other primary sources, e.g., from the House Divided project, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Gilder Lehrman
Use secondary sources, e.g., the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Society
Draft, confer, revise.
Publish your work via one of the venues discussed previously (e.g. YouTube, Quora, Genius, Storify, etc.)

Independent Research and Writing to Produce a Multi-Media Project, con't
Pair/Share
Independent Research and Writing to Produce a Multi-Media Project, con't
Initial Steps:
Select one of Lincoln’s writing from http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/top-150-lincoln-documents/
Annotate the document with questions, observations, ideas, connections.
Full transcript