The Nesting Doll

Throughout the course of this class we have focused heavily on the concept of “looping back” which can be unpacked to be defined by the concept of “nesting”. Where in which we have not focused purely on one story or concept at a time, we have nested previous topics and mindsets in every module of this course to create a common thread throughout all of our topics. Specifically, if we look at our last reading; The Water Cure by Percival Everett we can identify many cases of this nesting idea sprinkled throughout the reading by the author himself, and simultaneously we have nested our previous thoughts and readings into our understanding of The Water Cure. This process of nesting allowed for a larger and more intricate consciousness to the stories we read and the ideas we produced by freeing them to be recurring instead of imprisoned in a single module and timestamp in our semester. By consistently relating things back to previous thoughts there was less opportunity for forgetting certain earlier ideas that proved helpful in reading and understanding later stories and envisions. 

In African Fractals Ron Eglash talks about recursion, and embedded in that, iterations, and embedded in that, the idea of nesting. In the book Eglash says that nesting “makes use of loops within loops” (Eglash 110) this immediately sparked a thought in me because I remembered a very popular phrasing we use in this class; “looping back”. We use this term when we want to remember previous thoughts or readings in order to better understand a current discussion or story. In the beginning of this class I tended to disregard this idea, I would hear it being said as something I should do but I did not see the importance in doing so. I thought that I knew as much as I needed to currently and that I did not need to return to stories I had already read or concepts I had already been taught, quite an overconfident thought to have. Yet, as the semester pursued, I found myself valuing taking the time to return back to previous works and familiarizing myself with relevant topics that could help me with current works. I do not think I would have retained or even understood later works like The Water Cure without returning to earlier classwork and allowing myself the time to fully be prepared in comprehending a work as complex as it. 

The Water Cure not only was aided by my use of nesting, but it also contained many features within itself that were examples of nesting used by the author. Percival Everett did not conform to a simple form of storytelling, where one story is told in a linear view, he instead utilized the idea of nesting to create a deeper story and meaning for his audience. To this I am referring to the embedded riddles, drawings and poems that Everett nested within his story and loops back to multiple times within the story. One of the more prominent loops Everett makes is the continuing drawing that takes place throughout the passage, he has nested in this in-progress drawing of what looks to be a cat all throughout the story which supports his storytelling by allowing the readers to cling to a common thread tying the story together. The Water Cure is a very confusing read and I think this nesting of the drawing helps the reader in their journey to understand Everett’s storytelling a bit more. Another use of nesting in The Water Cure is the riddle Everett embeds earlier on in the story talking about having to bring chocolates, a monster, and a child over a river but not being able to leave certain ones alone with each other, he states this on page 27, then later on page 223 he loops back to this and says “Answer to puzzle: Kill the monster” (Everett 223). This feature of nesting aided Everett in showcasing how unstable and irrational the father is in this story, when we first are presented with the riddle we rack our brains trying to figure out the real solution, but then as the story progresses and more is revealed about the father’s life and actions we get the looped back answer that he had which is to “kill the monster” instead of rationally working through the problem as we did 196 pages prior. 

Not only has the nesting Everett put into the story aided me on my journey of reading The Water Cure, but my personal usage of it allowed me some semblance of ease while working through it. By having the foundation of all our previous readings and practices of understanding them I was able to successfully loop through the ins and outs of this course in an effort to aid myself in reading The Water Cure. It helped that we had constantly been reminded to “loop back” all semester because it made me feel better about needing extra help in comprehending some of our more complicated works. We talked in our first few weeks about the importance of slowing down, our notes specifically stating “thinkers who slow down*, however, might find other explanations” this was a very important nested idea that I found myself falling back onto. Whenever I hit a block in reading or felt frustrated that it was not coming easily, I slowed down and allowed myself the understanding that needing to take a step back and another look is not a negative thing, instead it shows that I have the yearning and effort to fully take in what we are reading instead of skimming through it and hoping for the best. Another example from our notes that I found myself relating The Water Cure back to was our reading of James Snead’s “On Repetition in Black Culture”, in our notes it is written that we may understand this reading more than we originally presumed we would, which is exactly how I felt about The Water Cure. At first glance I was quite honestly scared of this text, I thought it to be too difficult for me to fully understand and that I was going to struggle more than the rest of my classmates. In feeling this I remembered the aforementioned point in our notes and I decided instead of giving up I was going to go into it with a different mindset and not immediately count myself out at the get-go.

All-in-all I think the idea of nesting is one of our most important concepts we have touched on this semester. It allowed for so much more conversation and connections than there would have been without knowing of this idea and being encouraged to utilize it. Especially with The Water Cure it paid off to be able to revert back to previous classes and conversations in order to tackle a seemingly daunting piece of work. Personally, I found nesting very helpful to me in my process of navigating this course, and even the others I am in. I can definitely see myself remembering and “looping back” to this idea in my future classes and life endeavors. Now that I have been exposed to this idea as a concrete thing, I recognize it happening so much in my day-to-day life, just like a nesting doll, everything contains other things within itself. 

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