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Category: Barbara Hernnstein Smith

Pay attention

“The interest and utility of close reading do not vanish in the face of digital libraries or ubiquitous computation. On the contrary, in the century upon us, where channels of communication are not only increasingly computerized but also increasingly corporatized and where texts of all kinds are turned to manipulative ends with digitally multiplied effectiveness, the ability and disposition to read texts attentively, one by one (in addition, of course, to digital sophistication), is likely to be an advantage.” – Barbara Hernnstein Smith, “What Was ‘Close Reading’?”

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“The developments to which scholars were responding during the twentieth century were quite significant. Literary study was one thing when a small number of Christian men were teaching the professionally aspiring sons of fellow professionals. It became another when members of an expanding professoriate were teaching students from middle- and working-class families or, later, when a sizeable number of faculty were women and a sizeable number of their students were from racial and ethnic minorities. And the field is yet another thing now, when faculty and students are more likely to encounter texts on screens than anywhere else and everyone is scrambling for positions, funding and status in a shrinking quarter of the academy.” – Barbara Hernnstein Smith, “What Was ‘Close Reading’?”

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Poring over

“Full-dress close readings, now as ever, can be showy or strained. They can also be dim, thin, derivative or pedestrian and, when motivated by a history of injury, sulky or venomous. But, now as ever, they can offer those who hear or read them potentially illuminating engagements with regions of language, thought and experience not otherwise commonly encountered.” – Barbara Hernnstein Smith, “What Was ‘Close Reading’?”

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