Deanna K. Kreisel, “The Psychology of Victorian Buddhism and Rudyard Kipling’s Kim” (pp. 227–259)

This essay demonstrates that Rudyard Kipling’s Kim (1901) engages deeply with several aspects of Buddhist thought that were also of central concern to nineteenth-century British psychology. It describes several central tenets of Buddhism as understood by Victorian exegetes, paying particular attention to the ways this discourse became surprisingly approbatory over the course of the century. It also performs close readings of three key passages in Kipling’s novel dealing with identity, will, and self-discipline that illuminate the author’s understanding of the subtleties of Buddhist thought. Its attention to the ways in which Kipling’s novel engages Asian religious practice, particularly the “esoteric” practices of meditation and trance, complicates an entrenched reading of the novel as championing British triumphalism; it does so by challenging earlier interpretations of the religious elements in Kim as constituting straightforward evidence for the novel’s endorsement of the imperial project.

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