Teaching with Paratext

Rereading Roald Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter” in the Literature Classroom


  • Rhiannon Scharnhorst University of Cincinnati


Feminist, Pedagogy, Paratext, Anthology


In this age of PDFs and free e-texts, literature gets separated from its initial context, perhaps even devoid of context all together. Taking Roald Dahl’s most anthologized short story “Lamb to the Slaughter” as its object of study, this article proposes a pedagogy that embraces the return of paratextual material to the literature classroom. Through a close reading of Dahl’s story and an account of the paratextual material surrounding its initial publication in Harper’s Magazine in 1953, the study of paratext can offer students a more complex and culturally textured understanding of a text, one that often expands and illuminates their own emplaced reading practices—i.e. practices situated in, reflective of, and partly determined by not just the particular cultural-historical moment of a story’s publication, but also by their own emplacedness as readers in the twenty-first century.

Author Biography

Rhiannon Scharnhorst, University of Cincinnati

Rhiannon Scharnhorst is a hybrid PhD Candidate in English and Writing Studies at the University of Cincinnati. In both her research and teaching, Scharnhorst asks questions related to objects and technologies in composing processes, feminist rhetorics, and nineteenth-century women writers.