Close Readings

Due by April 15, 2016


Students should be able to demonstrate an ability to summarize and interpret an important Lincoln document using a combination of his words and their own to create a coherent and concise historical analysis in the form of an effective blog post.

Assignment Details

• Students should choose an important Lincoln document, preferably from among the 125 documents under development at Lincoln’s Writings. However, they may also examine some of the twenty-five (25) featured documents at the site, or with approval from Prof. Pinsker, some other Lincoln document from the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln.

• Participants should prepare a written “close reading” of their chosen document that summarizes the text, provides essential historical context for understanding and teaching the document, and then offers some compelling analysis of the document’s subtext (or Lincoln’s unstated meaning). There is no hard word or page count, but good posts should be about 1,000 words or the equivalent of 4-5 typed pages. Here are some useful posts and models for students to consult:

• Students should supplement their close reading post at the course website with occasional links and also selected images (See Blog Posting Instructions). All posts should link to the associated document page at Lincoln’s Writings, and most posts should use any relevant images from the House Divided research engine. However, posts may include links to any other outside sources, but students should judge carefully the relative merit and stability of those sites. All posts should include footnotes (using numbers in brackets) and should provide full citation information in Chicago humanities style at the bottom of the post.  The Lincoln section of the course Web Guide contains a number of useful research leads for students.

Multi-Media Supplement

  • For up to 5 extra credit points, students may choose to produce a short video or podcast based on your close reading text, that you can upload to YouTube or Soundcloud and embed in your post.  The video should be at least 2 minutes in length, and should typically not exceed 10 minutes.  Students may choose to produce close reading videos showing themselves on camera (via webcam) with image and text cutaways, or by narrating a Ken Burns-style documentary with a series of images.  Or they may choose to pursue a more creative option (such as a music parody or mock campaign commercial parody).  However, the video should be suitable for secondary or undergraduate classroom use.  For some best practices tips, various models and video tutorials, click here.
  • To sign up for YouTube, just go to the site and follow directions for Signing Up. It is free.  For now, however, you should make sure to set your sharing status to public to simplify things.  But after the assignment is submitted and evaluated, remember to revert to private or to delete your channel if you don’t want the work to be open and searchable on the Internet.

 Grading Rubric

• Grades for this assignment will be determined by the quality of the prose, the evidence of effective outside research and the depth of analysis. Students should take special care to avoid plagiarism. Paraphrasing from Lincoln’s own writings is acceptable, but paraphrasing from secondary sources requires careful attention to citation rules.

• The very best posts will be edited and published at Lincoln’s Writings.