Shakespeare, pedagogy, ethics, sonnet, close reading, Jane Gallop
Applied Ethics | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, British Isles
In the first session of my Introduction to Shakespeare course, I always teach one of Shakespeare's best-known sonnets: Sonnet 130, "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun:' I open with this sonnet because students frequently think that they know what the poem is about. W hen I ask the class, someone will usually give me the most common misreading of the sonnet: the speaker tells his mistress that she does not look like other women, but he loves her all the same. Rather than dismissing this reading, I ask many questions. How did you reach this conclusion? What do you already know about Shakespeare that leads you to this conclusion? What do you know about sonnets? I explain that this type of reading, which asks the reader to focus on "the main idea;' is something that we have all been trained to do. We project what we already know about a text onto our reading of that text.
Madon, Devon. "Why Analyze a Sonnet? Avoiding Presumption through Close Reading." From Reading to Healing, edited by Susan Stagno and Michael Blackie, The Kent State University Press, 2019, pp. 3-16. DigitalCommons@IMSA, https://digitalcommons.imsa.edu/eng_pr/23/.