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In this paper, we utilize poetic methods that seek to surface, but not overdetermine, the unanticipated relational excess produced through literacy practices. Karen, a queer white woman, and Jordan, a cis-gendered heterosexual Black man, wrote a series of letters to one another throughout the Spring 2020 semester. We turned to critical poetic inquiry to analyze the letters, interested in poetry’s capacity to highlight literacy’s critical power and its emergent potential. We found ourselves implicated in each other’s lives in new ways; we found our relationship both strengthened and tested. Such relational indeterminacy creates methodological challenges in literacy research. We found critical poetic inquiry to be a uniquely useful method for expressing the ambiguity and incommensurability of literacy as ‘affective encounters’ (Lenters, 2016), particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, as our interdependency and mutual obligation is highlighted.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in International Studies in Sociology of Education on November 9, 2021, available online:


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