Kimberley Rae Connor – Reading from the Heart Out: Chief Bromden Through Indigenous Eyes

Writing the Empire: Scribblings from Below

An international & interdisciplinary conference

Phillipe de Vigors, ‘Convicts letter writing at Cockatoo Island, New South Wales, 1849’
Reproduced by kind permission of the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney


Event Dates: 26 June 2010
Bristol, UK

Kimberley Rae Connor (University of San Francisco)

Reading from the Heart Out: Chief Bromden Through Indigenous Eyes

Recently I was presented an opportunity apply my knowledge of American minority literatures to the interpretation of American Indian cultures, ably led by Daniel Wildcat, a social scientist at Haskell Indian Nations University. From him I learned that re-writing empire means also re-reading empire.  Indeed, in the canon of American experience, acquiring the ability to not just read but interpret text has served a pivotal function in the development of many a protagonist.  Applied in a series of stages of increased vision, I offer a post-colonial reading of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest that recasts the Indian protagonist not as a victim but as an individual relying on indigenous strategies to negotiate the world after empire. The essay unfolds the process of engaging in this kind of reconsideration, offering an experiment in reading an American classic after empire, culminating in the application of a method developed by an Indian writer to Kesey’s text. The novel and its Indian narrator can be understood from an indigenous point of view by applying the narrative logic behind N. Scott Momaday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain. This text directs a way of reading Chief Bromden’s narrative from the multiple points of view by which he presents it but without the presumption of psychosis. Indeed, by rendering his tale as myth, memoir, and history, Bromden performs a supremely sane act.

Kimberley Rae Connor, University of San Francisco, email
Kimberly Rae Connor attended Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania where she received a B.A. in English in 1979. In 1981 she earned an M.A. in Literature and Theology at the University of Bristol, England, and completed her graduate studies at the University of Virginia, receiving a Ph.D. in Religion and Literature in 1991. Connor has steadily taught various courses in religion and literature, ethnic studies, and writing in a variety of academic settings. Currently she is Associate Professor at the University of San Francisco. Connor’s scholarship focuses on African American religious life and cultural production. She also applies the interpretative lens she acquired through the study of African American life to the cultural production of other marginalized populations, including gay men and women, people with AIDS, Japanese Americans, and Native Americans. She has published two books: Conversion and Visions in the Writings of African American Women and Imagining Grace: Liberating Theologies in the Slave Narrative Tradition that was selected by Choice as an outstanding academic title in the humanities for 2000. Connor has received grants for her work from The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The Jesuit Foundation, and The Lilly and Luce Foundations. In addition to her books she has edited a book of essays on academic satire and published numerous articles, reviews, and reference book entries on topics related to African American religion and literature and multicultural pedagogy. Connor is a board appointed member of the Publications Committee of the American Academy of Religion for which she serves as editor of the Academy Series, a joint publishing venture of the American Academy of Religion and Oxford University Press.








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