emagazine Close Reading Competition 2019

Welcome to the 2019 emagazine Close Reading Competition!

This year's passage

The emagazine Close Reading Competition is now a well-established fixture in the year. After passages by Edith Wharton, John le Carré and Charles Dickens, Lisa McInerney and Haru Kunzru, this year we’ve chosen an extract from James Joyce’s seminal novel A Portrait of the Artist as Young Man

Download a copy of the extract here.

The Judges

This year the competition will be judged by the emagazine editors and Professor Ben Knights.

The Prizes

  • Winner: £150 and publication in emagazine.
  • Two runners-up: £50 and publication on the emagazine website.

The winner will be announced online and via email on Wednesday 8th May 2019 and in the September issue of emagazine.


  • Close of competition: 5pm Friday 29th March 2019. (Please note: we will NOT accept entries received after 5pm Friday 29th March, so don’t leave it to the last minute!)
  • Results announced online and by email: Wednesday 8th May 2019.
  • Results and winning entry published in emagazine: September 2019.

Who can enter?

The competition is open to all 16-19 year olds in full-time education when the competition closes on Friday 29th March 2019. It is open to IB, BTEC and Pre-U, as well as A Level students.

How to Enter

Some Tips

Before starting to write your analysis it’s worth reminding yourself of what makes a good critical response. The following points are summarised from the judges’ comments over the last few years.

The best critical writing about texts:

  • genuinely explores what you find interesting about the text. 
  • looks closely at what is special and distinctive about this particular text.
  • recognises complexity and doesn’t try to over-simplify... but is also willing to commit to a reading of the text. 
  • has a clear sense of the text as a whole, with discussion moving between the detail and the bigger picture.
  • is written in a clear and simple style.
  • explores the text tentatively but doesn’t simply list possible readings – has a clear line of argument.
  • shows ownership of, and investment in, the interpretation.
  • is focused on what is significant, avoiding micro-analysis or over-interpretation of tiny details.
  • is not formulaic (avoiding structuring every paragraph point-evidence-explanation).
  • uses technical literary vocabulary accurately and only when relevant, where it genuinely contributes to the analysis.