Reading as Evocation: Engaging the Novel in Phenomenological Psychology
AbstractLiterary fiction gives us a window into ourselves and into those who may seem most unfamiliar to us. We therefore have a moral imperative to read, just as, as psychotherapists, we have a moral imperative to listen. Literary study teaches us to read closely, to listen for structure as well as content, and it also instructs us about different ways of paying attention. Inversely, because the practice of psychotherapy values connection and process, rather than simply interpretation, it shows us how we can bring ourselves more fully to literature. In this paper I propose ways of engaging the field of phenomenological psychology in this dialectical relationship of literature and psychotherapy. By using as a case study a recent experience of teaching Aimee Bender’s (2000) novel An Invisible Sign of My Own in an interdisciplinary seminar on literature and psychology, I illustrate how literature and clinical discourses can inform and challenge each other as we seek to understand the meaning and lived experience of neuroses. I argue that the very act of reading can give the reader the sense and structure of experience that, if explored in a dialogal context, helps us gain access to phenomena that is neither simply self-generated nor simply observed in the other. I term this access evocation: A response that is a calling forth of the reader’s own lived experiencing.
Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, Volume 12, Special Edition July 2012