Close reading and Hyperreading: my personal experience

In the article, How We Read: Close, Hyper and Machine, Hayle attempts to explain the paradigm shift that surrounds modern literary studies and literacy itself. Hayle identifies a plethora of reasons for this shift, ranging from the widespread adoption of social media to the use of computing in social scientific research. Unlike the scholars she describes in section two of her article, Hayle seems much more understanding of this shift towards this new, three-pronged approach to literacy. That being said, she understands the dangers that hyperreading presents. These dangers include the rapid degradation of traditional and close literacy, as well as the dwindling of our collective attention span.
Based on my own personal experiences as an interdisciplinary student, Hayle’s concerns and arguments seemed were both relatable. Personally, I find switching between close reading and hyperreading immensely difficult. Last term I was lucky enough to be able to take Dr. Creelman’s course on Maritime literature. Although I enjoyed the books, I found myself losing focus after 20 to 30 minutes of active reading. Instead of finishing chapters, I would skim the last half of a section and end up rereading it a couple times to have the information sink in. I attribute this lack of focus to my typical way of reading, which is fractured and sporadic. For ICS research, I often read 10 to 20 texts to create both the theoretical framework and literary substance of my papers. These texts range from manuals, books and articles to films, blogs and press releases. Each of these texts requires a different analytic approach, because each is formatted in radically different ways. Unfortunately, reading these sporadic chunks of text has ultimately affected how I engage with novels and narratives. 20 to 30 minutes with a novel just doesn’t cut it like it does when reading a journal article. Since then, I’ve tried to reorient the way in which I read. Close reading is extremely valuable and letting the skill atrophy would be both reckless and stupid.

One thought on “Close reading and Hyperreading: my personal experience

  1. Noah, I can relate to the reading experiences you describe. I can feel the general turn away from close reading that Hayles suggests in a very real way. Exercising an active attention span is something I have to be mindful of, especially during semesters (like this one) with heavy course loads of English. Close reading is almost interchangeable with ‘slow reading’ and scheduling uninterrupted focus times can be challenging. Harold Bloom often comes to mind when I feel the urge to divert my attention: how can I learn how to ‘listen to myself’ if I am always checking my phone? I am only half-joking.

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