I am an extremely visual learner so my annotation and notes are all done by hand. I find that when I write things down- sometimes more than once- I can retain a large amount of information. I take a lot of notes, jotting down everything I can think of at first, then going back over them to pick out the most important points and emphasize what is most significant. I often re-write my notes after a lecture to better retain the information.
When close reading a play-text, I begin by creating a list of the characters. I find it helpful to do some external research and write a brief description of each character’s place within the narrative, connection to other characters, and some of their personal qualities and motives within the text. I refer back to this list often during my readings. I have found my readings of texts in which the language is more difficult than usual to be most successful when I seek external information and summaries before diving into a close reading. Sparknotes is often viewed negatively in higher academic settings but I think that it can be an effective addition to traditional close readings. I paraphrase each scene of every act in a play, writing down the general plot line so that when I start my close reading, I can focus on the more nuanced details of the text instead of struggling to grasp the basic storyline. I find I am more successful in analyzing Shakespeare’s elevated language when I already have a strong grasp of what’s going on in a particular scene.
Once I have my list of characters and a paraphrase of each scene, I begin the close reading process. I like to look over the footnotes and briefly annotate or translate anything I think is significant next to the lines on the top half of the page so I’m not constantly breaking away from the text to read the notes. Then, I mark off the meter of the text, which not only helps me to understand the meaning behind the poetic devices at work, but also focuses me on the rhythm of each line and slows my reading down. In a very detailed close reading of a scene, I underline and highlight different things that jump out at me, like any alliteration or variation on syllables. I found using the glossary of terms provided to us by Dr. Ullyot to be helpful and I take note of which poetic or linguistic elements I notice in a particular passage.
My annotation and notes when analyzing a film are a little less formal than when reading a play-text, but perhaps more time-consuming. I watch the film all the way through, taking a first set of notes that are more like a stream of consciousness. I write down any thoughts and ideas I get while watching the film, important symbols, cinematic techniques at work, the effect of score or soundtrack, and any important quotes that stand out to me. I also take note of any scenes or sequences that I found to be particularly interesting and write down the time at which they occur in the film. I then go back to those scenes and take notes with more detail and attention than the first set. After I’ve seen the whole movie, I write down any final thoughts or conclusions about the film and any arguments I might make.
I think it’s also interesting to note that I use these different viewing and reading habits to compliment one another in my understanding of a text. Reading the play-text can help to accentuate meanings I perhaps didn’t pick up on in a film, and watching scenes on film can help me better understand a particular scene from the play. When I engage in different mediums and methods of understanding a text, I am successful in uncovering deeper meaning and more diverse interpretations that I may not have with a one-dimensional approach.
I determine my success in annotating by talking to someone about the text once I’m finished studying. I find that if I am able to explain meaning, details, and engage verbally by teaching someone else about the material, I generally have a good understanding of the text. This way, not only do I feel confident in my own knowledge, but those closest to me become well-educated on the texts I engage with!