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Taking off My Glasses to "See" Jamaica Kincaid: Toward Holistic Reading in Literature.

By Nicole Aim Bishop


Holistic reading is a methodology which emphasizes the organic, functional relation between parts and the whole. Reading holistically turns our gaze inward to better understand the world around us. From this standpoint, we are all interdependent. Therefore, an individual’s efforts to understand and master the self reverberate into our families, societies, and beyond. Building on Buddhist concepts of interdependence, non-duality, beginner’s mind, and non-attachment, , the Buddhist practices of mindfulness and meditation, as well as the psychological constructions of Dr. Richard Gillett regarding the creation and maintenance of beliefs, holistic reading is done for self-exploration, rather than to explain the perceived “other.” One method of reading holistically is described in this dissertation; namely, reading the same book repeatedly, then using meditation to access the richness and depth that might not be accessible even in a thorough initial reading. In this text, I conduct three holistic readings of My Garden (Book): by Anglophone Caribbean writer Jamaica Kincaid to discover what new insights reading in this manner enables. The Buddhist concept of “beginner’s mind,” which means approaching any given thing as if for the first time, functions as in integral aspect of holistic reading. By examining some of the many cultural changes over the past half century, it becomes apparent why we need the kind of internal space provided by beginner’s mind at this juncture in American history. Identifying the beliefs that gird this cultural structure enables the individual to begin to harness and mindfully choose her own beliefs. I describe its function and significance, and what it might add to the academy. Finally, seeing the trope of race as a sociopolitical construct and a lived experience, Buddhism’s construction of interdependence offers a more liberatory paradigm. The ways in which the contemporary Western academy still serves its racist patriarchal foundations and its scholarship frequently reiterates and re-inscribes dominant narratives and norms, has lived consequences for those it marginalizes. The lens of race uses stereotype to become self-proliferating and self-perpetuating. By contrast, holistic readings of Kincaid engender new ways of imagining blackness

Topics: Holistic Reading, Meditation, Reading Methodology, Jamaica Kincaid, Buddhism, Beginner's Mind
Year: 2009
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