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Wilder Teaching Artifact: Close Reading Paper Prompt / 1

English 2281
Spring 2014

Close Reading Paper (3-4 pages)

Due Tuesday, February 11th
For this assignment, you will select a limited section of one of the texts we have read for class.
(If you would like write about a different text in the anthology that we are not reading or havent
read yet, please come talk to me). The goal of focusing on just a small section is for you to
practice your analytical skills, to practice saying more about less, and to practice using evidence
to support your claims. The selection you choose might be as short as a couple lines of poetry
and should be no longer than a paragraph or two at most. You will focus on specific details that
appear in the selection (such as the imagery, symbolism, descriptions, or diction) to explain the
meaning of that selection and its relation to the work as a whole. Your paper should have an
organized structure, including a clear introduction and thesis statement, and should support your
argument with at least three specific references to the selection. Specific references mean
quoting or explicitly citing the words on the page, that is to say, you should start with basic
facts that no one could disagree with and move toward interpretation of those facts. Examples of
what I mean by specific references appear on the back of this sheet.
Identify and describe prominent features of a text
Analyze the significance of those features for the meaning of the larger text
Construct an argument and organized structure
Support claims with specific details as evidence

Retype the chosen selection and attach it at the end of your paper (not part of the 3-4 pages)
Make references to at least three specific details that appear in the selection
Have a developed introduction with organizing thesis that makes your main idea clear
Have a title that alludes to your main idea
Have a logical organization and a clear topic sentence for each paragraph
Have a conclusion that summarizes the significance of your main points
Have polished prose with few or no grammatical and spelling answers
Have an identifying Header
Double space, have 1 margins, and use Times New Roman 12pt, or equivalent, font

(first page)
Brutus Buckeye
English 2281 (Wilder)
Close Reading Paper
February 11, 2014
Flipping the Truth in Ida B. Wellss Mob Rule in New Orleans
In 1892 Ida B. Wells published the pamphlet Mob Rule in New Orleans about

Wilder Teaching Artifact: Close Reading Paper / 2

(last page)
This paragraph is taken from Mob Brutality, the third section of Ida B. Wellss Mob
Rule in New Orleans:
During the entire time the mob held the city in its hands and went about holding up street cars and searching them,
taking from them colored men to assault, shoot and kill, chasing colored men upon the public square, through alleys
and into houses of anybody who would take them in, breaking into the homes of defenseless colored men and
women and beating aged and decrepit men and women to death, the police and the legally constituted authorities
showed plainly where their sympathies were, for in no case reported through the daily papers does there appear the
arrest, trial and conviction of one of the mob for any of the brutalities which occurred. The ringleaders of the mob
were at no time disguised. Men were chased, beaten and killed by white brutes, who boasted of their crimes, and the
murderers still walk the streets of New Orleans, well known and absolutely exempt from prosecution. Not only were
they exempt from prosecution by the police while the town was in the hands of the mob, but even now that law and
order is supposed to resume control, these men, well known, are not now, nor ever will be, called to account for the
unspeakable brutalities of that terrible week. On the other hand, the colored men who were beaten by the police and
dragged into the station for purposes of intimidation, were quickly called up before the courts and fined or sent to
jail upon the statement of the police. Instances of Louisiana justice as it is dispensed in New Orleans are here quoted
from the Times-Democrat of July 26:

*note: I have bolded and underlined text in the selection above to make it clear what a specific
reference might entail. You do not need to do this. You also dont have to explain each reference,
as I do below. But these are the sorts of explanations that should be part of your paper.
Specific References should start with words on the page. You should be able to literally put your
finger on them. But they might involve multiple words, and you should describe and organize
them with the vocabulary of literary analysis that we have discussed in class
Reference #1 (bold & underline above): Diction, repeated verbs. They are all in the gerund (-ing) form,
which implies ongoing action. They all imply criminal activity. The verb phrases are all part of a single
sentence that describes the actions of the (white) mob in an introductory clause; the main subject of the
sentence is the police and the legally constituted authorities. The syntax of the sentence links the mob
and the police with ongoing criminal activity.
Reference #2 (bold above): Imagery, man/brute. The black brute was a common racial stereotype that
was used to justify lynching and other violent suppression of African Americans. The black brute
stereotype was part of the dehumanization of African Americans that echoed the effects of slavery. The
common imagery is inverted here. The whites are brutes and the blacks are men.
Reference #3 (underline above): Structure, quoted newspapers, journalistic style. The selection above ends
right before a news item from the Times-Democrat that Wells quotes from at length. She quotes from
multiple white newspapers throughout her pamphlet. Her accounts of events in New Orleans repeatedly use
the same diction, descriptions, and tone that white newspapers use to describe African Americans when she
describes the police and the white mob.

These are the most basic details of what I mean by a specific reference. In your paper, you will
need to go further to answer the So What? question. Why do these details matter? How do they
relate to or reveal Wellss purpose? How do they relate to the experience of African Americans
in the time that this text was published? You will need to quote words directly from the text
(such as those marked in the paragraph selection above) and then connect them with descriptive
comments (such as those listed out for each of the three references below the paragraph selection
above) and then connect them to the interpretative questions (such as those that appear earlier in
this paragraph). Doing all of these together is what I mean by showing the steps of your
thinking or using evidence to support your claims.