This is a study of the idea of close reading, which is fundamental to modernist literary criticism and art history. The case study is the archaeological reading of tiny marks on Neolithic bones proposed by Alexander Marshack, but the general subject is the coherence of the idea that a closer reading is a better or more sensitive reading, and that it is possible to know how to engage in, or control, a close reading in the first place.

There are parallels here with ideas of close reading in literature, art history, and other fields, and the essay includes comments by Michael Baxandall, T.J. Clark, Göran Sonesson, Henry Staten, David Summers, and Alexander Marshack.

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