This article situates the practice of close reading within a cross-disciplinary context that moves beyond literary criticism and linguistic analysis to sociology and the history of science. A comparative approach to the practice of close reading adds to the toolbox of literary critics, who often focus on meaning rather than material. After a review of close reading from a literary point of view, I introduce Latour and Woolgar’s (1986) concept of microprocessing and Rheinberger’s (1997) concept of pragmatogony as equally valid forms of close reading from the disciplines of sociology and history of science. If a combination of these techniques can be applied to literary works, literary critics can analyze the epistemic value of literature, which requires experimentation with the material of a literary artefact, which in turn affects the author and critic. Through examples of engaging literary material in addition to representations, literary critics can experiment with and redefine the literary object as an epistemic object and the practice of close reading as undefined at the time of creation and interpretation. By way of metaphors and folklore about rabbits, a novel with a white rabbit, and genetically modified rabbits, this article offers three conclusions that appear when the practices of microprocessing and pragmatogony are applied to literary works. The reconceptualization of the practice of close reading, 1) transforms the author and reader into hybrid scientists-artists, rather than prophets, geniuses, or intellectuals; 2) transforms the literary object of study from a book to any material object; and 3) transports the practice of close reading from the library to the laboratory.
Close reading, literary criticism, rabbits, history of science, sociology