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Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

On-line version ISSN 1445-7377
Print version ISSN 2079-7222

Indo-Pac. j. phenomenol. (Online) vol.12 n.2 Grahamstown Jul. 2012 

Reading as evocation: Engaging the novel in phenomenological psychology



Jennifer L. Schulz




Literary 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.



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About the Author



Jennifer Schulz, PhD, is a Professor in the English, Psychology and Liberal and Interdisciplinary Studies programs at Seattle University, Seattle, WA, USA. She teaches a wide variety of courses on literature, clinical psychology, writing, and interdisciplinary research methods. She also works as a licensed mental health counsellor in private practice. Dr Schulz has conducted dialogal phenomenological psychology research on despair and intimacy and has written on incorporating creative writing practices in qualitative research methodology. E-mail address:

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