Final Close Reading Project

Due December 12, 2022


By Monday, December 12, by 5pm, students should post (private) a close reading analysis essay at the course site of an important document from the Civil War or Reconstruction era.that covers about 4-6 pages and includes Chicago-style footnotes and a handful of properly captioned and credited images.   Students must also embed inside their post a companion short video featuring about 1-2 minutes of a multi-media reading of their assigned text (using their own voice-over with companion images and music).

Annotated Guidelines

  • List of possible documents (updated occasionally)
  • Prof. Pinsker will register everyone in the class at the course WordPress site and will provide in-class tutorials on using the platform.  Here are additional instructions with screenshots as well as Handout –117 Blog Posting Instructions.  Always remember to set your publication status as PRIVATE.  
  • Historical close readings focus on analyzing text, context and subtext.  See this reading handout from the Methods Center for further guidance.  But also just remember that the same advice about crafting a thesis statement and taking care with formatting your  footnotes that you received when writing your earlier essays still applies.  
  • Sample outline:
    • TOP OF POST –Provide link to primary source, full title and byline (optional), embedded video
    • Introduction (1 paragraph, open with a snippet of quotation or striking narrative vignette + brief overview and then interpretive thesis statement)
    • Text summary (2-3 paragraphs, summarize nature, format and content of text) [1-2 images]
    • Context background (2-3 paragraphs, put key text points into historical context, especially regarding time period, author, and audience, using outside secondary source research) [1-2 images]
    • Subtext analysis (2-3 paragraphs, analyze author’s intentions, using variety of sources) [1-2 images]
    • Closing (1 paragraph, provide an elegant return to opening insight)
    • BOTTOM OF POST –Chicago-style footnotes (brackets), no bibliography required
  • There are numerous close reading essays and videos in the Student Hall of Fame but here is one prize-winning student model to consider:
  • Note from these examples that images do not require footnotes, but merely captions (brief descriptions) and credits (abbreviated source information, like Library of Congress, provided in parentheses).  It is also helpful online to make images clickable so that readers can see directly where you obtained them (just add URLs to the images when editing inside WordPress)
  • Research effort is critical in an assignment like this.  You can find high quality academic sources via our online library catalog or through database resources such as JSTOR and America: History & Life.  Take advantage of Google Books as well for its full text search capability and extensive snippet view. The most important reference source starting point, however, is American National Biography Online (available through the library database finder.  Also make sure to consult the resources at our course site and the History research guide from the library.  
  • And here are some student models to rely upon for the companion videos: 
  • For detailed written instructions on producing these videos in the free online platform WeVideo, please see this page.  And below is a short video tutorial on using WeVideo.  Please note that WeVideo has paid options, but anyone in this course can sign up for a free account and have more than enough time (up to 5 minutes per month) for this assignment (which requires about 1 to 2 minutes of video). For those who want to use other video production software, such as iMovie or Windows MovieMaker, please consult those video tutorials at the House Divided YouTube channel –but also please remember that you will have to then post your video at your own YouTube channel before you can embed it at the WordPress course site.  

Projects will be graded on depth of analysis, research effort, and quality of prose. Late projects will be penalized up to 5 points per day.

  • REMEMBER TO SET YOUR PUBLICATION STATUS AS PRIVATE.  Prof. Pinsker will make the best posts public (with permission) and add them to the Student Hall of Fame.  
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of integrating your quoted evidence with some degree of fluidity.  Awkwardly inserting quotations is one of the hallmarks of mediocre undergraduate essays.  Consult this handout from the methods center for a range of good tips.
  • Also, please guard against plagiarism.  Remember our discussion from the very first day of the semester.  Never write your own words while looking directly at your sources, especially secondary sources –unless you are quoting them.
  • And finally, always remember to proofread your work by printing it out and reading it aloud, slowly. See our methods handout on How to Proofreed [sic]