Wednesday, July 13, 2016
What is Deep Reading?
What is deep reading, for instance deep reading of a philosophical text? The evidence is going to be mostly personal here, although one might wonder why I should accept my own account of deep reading over that of another. My intuition is that the answer to the question what is a deep reading of a concept is going to be pretty similar to the answer to the question what is deep reading of a text. And so there is a circularity here. My answer to the question what is a deep reading of a concept like "deep reading" conditions my answer to the question "what is deep reading of a text." Perhaps it is a virtuous rather than a vicious circle. My first hypothesis is that deep reading of a text is two things since there are two meanings of "a reading": i.e. there is a reading in the sense of an interpretation, a written text itself, and then there is a reading in the sense of a process. Generally these are connected: a deep reading process is one that gives rise to a deep reading interpretation. Deep reading interpretations only come out of deep reading processes. My second hypothesis is that deep reading interpretations result from a long and arduous process in which the reader is intent on revealing the essence of the text and/or the essence of the subject matter of the text. The intermediary moment between the hard work and the end product is a moment of creative discovery in which a linchpin or key concept is discovered: that concept in the moment of creative apprehension has a heightened aura of meaning for the reader under consideration. It becomes a synecdoche for the whole text. My third hypothesis, and perhaps this is related to Gadamer's idea of fusion of horizons, is that the posited synecdoche, the one that has an aura of additional meaning that gathers together and summarizes the whole and which provides the touch point for further elaboration of a thesis, is also taken as a metaphor for the self. When the reader finds a way of seeing a concept, a metaphor, a moment in a text as synecdoche with all of the relevant hidden meaning is also the moment in which the reader is one with the text, and this moment is one in which the reader has also provided a new metaphor for herself. This idea is similar to the Hindu idea that Atman is Brahman: the deepest nature of the self is the deepest nature of the universe. So, here, the deepest nature of the text is when some aspect of the text is taken as a synecdoche that is also metaphorically the deepest nature of the reading self. Deep reading finds the self in the sense that at least a temporary symbolic resolution of deep difficulties is found. This is the insight of the deep reading. And this is why great texts are read again and again: each reader reads to find the right reading for her or him. And of course these can be different at different times in one's life. And of course a deep reading that reveals the self also reveals one's culture: a deeper reading is going to go far beyond what is merely subjective. The deep reading of a text deeply reads the self and also the world, or at least the experienced world of the self.