by John Guillory
contributions by Scott Newstok
University of Chicago Press, 2024
Paper: 978-0-226-83743-7 | eISBN: 978-0-226-83744-4 | Cloth: 978-0-226-83742-0
Library of Congress Classification PN98.C57G85 2024
Dewey Decimal Classification 428.4

John Guillory considers close reading within the larger history of reading and writing as cultural techniques.
At a time of debate about the future of “English” as a discipline and the fundamental methods of literary study, few terms appear more frequently than “close reading,” now widely regarded as the core practice of literary study. But what exactly is close reading, and where did it come from? Here John Guillory, author of the acclaimed Professing Criticism, takes up two puzzles. First, why did the New Critics—who supposedly made close reading central to literary study—so seldom use the term? And second, why have scholars not been better able to define close reading?
For Guillory, these puzzles are intertwined. The literary critics of the interwar period, he argues, weren’t aiming to devise a method of reading at all. These critics were most urgently concerned with establishing the judgment of literature on more rigorous grounds than previously obtained in criticism. Guillory understands close reading as a technique, a particular kind of methodical procedure that can be described but not prescribed, and that is transmitted largely by demonstration and imitation.
Guillory’s short book will be essential reading for all college teachers of literature. An annotated bibliography, curated by Scott Newstok, provides a guide to key documents in the history of close reading along with valuable suggestions for further research. 

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