Contemplative Reading

Generosity, Meaning-making, Intolerance


  • Karolyn Kinane University of Virginia


Contemplative reading, lectio divina, medieval literature, contemplative pedagogy, Reading assignment


Students may read a text in much the same way they read a situation or another person. Critical reading can be a deeply self-aware and transformative process. However, at the undergraduate level, it can often be a mere analytical performance that reinforces the notion of radical discontinuity between historical eras and among human experiences. Contemplative reading, as a practice of generosity and connection, can generate self-awareness and transformative engagement with an Other, supporting critical reading. Contemplative readings of vilified or ignored subjects paired with students’ direct experiences of their resistance can surface intolerance and encourage meaning-making. In this piece, a traditional assignment of weekly reading responses posted by students to a Learning Management System is revised into a Contemplative Reading assignment. This assignment makes visible the reading process to highlight the skills of generous reading, noticing novelty, recognizing emotional reactivity, owning emotions rather than projecting them, and meaning-making, thereby expanding students’ capacities to engage with the world using critical, creative, and contemplative dispositions.

Author Biography

Karolyn Kinane, University of Virginia

Associate Director, University of Virginia Contemplative Sciences Center. Former Professor and Chair of English, Plymouth State University.


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