From Silence to Words: Understanding One's Voice Through Close Reading
Literally speaking, the word silence comes from the Latin word silens meaning to be still, quiet, or at rest. In English, it still maintains some of these meaning as most modern dictionaries define silence as the condition or quality of being or keeping still and silent, the absence of sounds, stillness or as a period of time without speech or noise.
As readers, we are accustomed to reading for plot, or allowing the joy of the reading experience to take over and carry us along, without stopping to ask how and why a particular passage, sentence, or word achieves its effects. Close reading, then, is about pausing, and looking at the precise techniques, dynamics, and content of the text. It’s not reading between the lines, but reading further and further into the lines and seeing the multiple meanings a turn of phrase, a description, or a word can unlock. It is possible to close read an extended passage, but for essays it is often a good technique to do the close reading first and then to use very short extracts or even single words to demonstrate your insights. So instead of doing a close reading of twenty lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream *in* your essay, you would do it independently, and then cite and explain three key phrases, relating them clearly to your developing argument. In the hands of subsequent critics, like William Empson, the technique became a way to offer virtuoso accounts of particular poems and literary works, with an emphasis on ambiguity and the multiplication of possible meanings. In essence, close reading means taking a step back from the larger narrative and examining the constituent parts of a text. Think of close reading as something that you do with a pencil and book in your hand. Mark up the pages; fill the margins.
According to Remez Sasson (100), people should adopt lifestyles which favor their well-being and also should incorporate techniques such embracing moments of silence once in a while, or if possible more often; it helps in clarity of issues and helps one make sound judgments that are not influenced by external factors, pressure or duress. It also helps prevent burn out due to constant pressure in the environment. All in all, given a chance to repeat this exercise (or even incorporate it as a routine), I would definitely agree to this. This is because, as human beings, we are prone to strenuous activities that are brought about in our day to day life – for instance at the workplace, in our homes, in sports and other general co-curriculum activities. Also, human beings are surrounded by strenuous events such as ailments, loss of loved ones, relationship breakups, family disputes and so forth. All these stress related issues play a big role in bringing one down; simply, they are exhausting for an individual to bear alone.
For the most part, when I think of the ways in which the teaching of reading and writing as classroom activities can frustrate the development of students, I am almost grateful for the overwhelming complexity of the circumstances in which I grew up. For it was this complexity that kept me from losing sight of the effort and choice involved in reading or writing with and through a discourse.
Norris, Kathleen. The Noonday Demon: A modern woman’s struggle with soul weariness. Oxford: Lion, 2009. Print.
Sasson, Remez. Meditation: Inner peace, bliss and silence. New York: Jossey-Bass, 2010. Print.