Thank you! As an English prof who has next-to-zero literary theory in her academic background (because I work in other English studies disciplines, as you know), I have often struggled with understanding the “whys” of literary and cultural studies beyond the ‘value to seeing ourselves in the world’ kind of response. iow, I couldn’t make a good explanation of literary study because I don’t do literary study.
However, your explanation of the purposes for a “close reading” is the best things I’ve ever heard. (As someone who does writing studies, our version of close readings is rhetorical analysis.) I won’t even say, as I have somewhat lately, that what literary critics do is rhetorical analysis, although the overlap is huge.
But what your post made me realize is the both/and of literary studies and rhetorical studies — to the extent that rhetorical/writing studies focuses on what might be called the “close writing” practice, where the responsibility for who created the argument, the perspective, rests with the writer as they write. (But, then, once it leaves the writer, the piece of writing needs to be closely read.)
This seems like a duhm revelation to type out in public, but I had to say thank you, because now I have a much better way to explain the relationship between reading and writing.