Actually, "wholistic" reading, by itself, can swing as wildly away from
reality as any obsession with a single line. The hermeneutic circle
implies that one must simply keep checking back and forth between whole
and parts, since it is impossible to understand the whole without first
understanding all the parts while it is impossible to understand any
part without first understanding the whole. The assumption (which makes
interpretation at least provisionally possible) is that this vicious
circle can be changed into a benign circle. Probably most of us most of
the time start pick up on the fly (from other readers or from a quick
and superficial skimming) some rough and ready 'whole,' and then proceed
to read as many of the parts as we can as contributing to that whole.
TWL expressesd the disillusion of a generation. TWL is a grouch against
life (or however Eliot put it). TWL is a celebration of rebirth
archetypes. TWL is the painful journey of the soul towards convesion.
Etc Etc Etc.
And it's probably best* that in the case of a disputed passage the local
context should be given priority to any assumed whole -- _given
priority_, not made the only determinant. I thought that probably the
focus on "ivory" in isolation had carried us rather beyond the point
where it could be very fruitful without checking against some wider set
of criteria than individual responses to the word. (And some of the
posts had at least gestured towards such a broader context.) It does not
hurt to be conscious (or to be reminded to be conscious) of what are the
interpretive procedures one is following.
*I first typed "true" -- then went back & changed to "best" on the
grounds that we are in an area whete TRUTHS are hard to come by.