One of the biggest challenges to close reading is finding your own voice in the analysis. When I was an undergraduate (and even sometimes still today) I would look at what someone else has written or said about a work of literature and think: What can I add to this?!
Sometimes I would make the mistake of letting someone else’s voice take over my paper: the other writer’s ideas just seemed to make so much more sense! Yeah, I agree with what she or he wrote. My teachers would write in the margin of these papers: Where is your voice? What do you think about this topic?
This common error is one of the reasons why the works we analyze in our papers for Literary Methodologies are not as well known or written about. If I give you a text that 110 scholars have written about, the temptation to quote or paraphrase what someone else has thought and written about is strong. If I give you a text that few people have written about, then, by necessity, you need to work through the close reading “on your own.”
However, as scholars and readers, we rarely do such work completely alone. We often read alone and write alone . . . but the process of thinking about literature is also a very social activity. Books clubs exist because of the need and desire to discuss literature with others. We focus so much on discussion in class not just to practice these tools, but because the process of thinking through a text is often helped by bouncing ideas off each other.
A lot of our scholarship is done alone. Lots of good thinking is done alone, too. However, I would encourage you to keep bouncing ideas off each other. Work through interpretations with your friends, family, and instructors.
Reading and writing about literature is a social activity. I assign papers—assignments that let you express your arguments about a text—to formalize this conversation. Looking forward to reading your papers!