Publication Date

Fall 2021

Document Type


Publication Title

Journal of Language & Literacy Education






This paper reimagines a quintessential literary practice: close reading.The autoethnographic inquiry examines the relationship between a single text and my experience with it as teacher, student, reader and writer: Jennifer Egan’s short story “Black Box”. In doing so I make a case for the literary as a useful mode for being and teaching in classrooms, and for the literariness of the lives caught up in those classrooms. I examine various properties of the text, including the story’s unusual form, the implications of its content and genre, the narrative voice, and the central metaphor of a black box. Reading through these, I consider how the story came to shape my imagination and practice as an English teacher. A final section considers the limitations of such a formalist approach to close reading, exploring how a novel framing of close reading as relational work makes ethical readings (Gallop, 2000) possible. The paper concludes with an analysis of the implications of that approach to reading and advances resonance as a concept of value for English teachers and researchers interested in thinking about the relationship among teachers, students, and texts.


close reading, ethics of reading, literariness, relational pedagogy, teacher identity


This article originally appeared in Journal of Language & Literacy Education, Volume 17, Issue 2, 2021. The article can also be found online at:


English and Comparative Literature