The Aesthetic Imperative
Through writing the phenomenologist tries "to express the noncognitive, ineffable, and pathic aspects of meaning that belong to the phenomenon" (p. 240). The aim is to produce resonance in readers. "Resonance means that the reader recognizes the plausibiity of an experience" (p. 240).
The Revocative Method: Lived Throughness
"The revocative method aims to bring experience vividly into presence (through the power of experiential anecdote, expressive narrative, or qualitative imagery)--so that the reader can recognize unreflectively (unmediated by reflection or thinking) these experiential possibilities of human life" (p. 241). This method is meant to take us toward the pre-logos "to those conditions before the word fixed meaning and form to them" (p. 241). The goal here is "to restore our contact with lived life" (p. 241). One way to do this is through anecdotes and "well-written and well-edited anecdotes may create for the writer and reader the experience of presence, closeness, propinquity, or proximity in place and time" (p. 242).
Language and Experience: Beyond Interpretive Description
[E]xperience is always more immediate, more enigmatic, more complex, more nuanced, and more ambiguous than any description can do justice to" (p. 242). "What we try to do in phenomenology research is to evoke understandings through pathic mediations of language such as fictively, example, anecdote, and poetic image" (p. 242). The important point is what's revealed are "pathic forms of knowledge and understandings that transcend the common cognitive function of language" (p. 243). Phenomenology employs stories that might be factual, imagined, or fictional. But it's worth noting that "for phenomenological inquiry is that it does not matter whether the story is factual or fictional" (p. 244). The criterion is plausibility.
It's not as if we have a worldview. Rather, we are both a personal and collective worldview.
The experiential material that phenomenology draws upon may be factional or fictional. "Myths and legends...give us a phenomenological glimpse into enigmatic the experience" of something (p. 248). This is because "hermeneutic interpretations of myths can make phenomenologically accessible the meanings of human realities that otherwise are hard to bring to our experiential understanding" (p. 248).
"Phenomenological investigations and analyses are mediated by empirical material drawn from life, such as anecdotes, stories, fragments, aphorisms, metaphors, memories, riddles, and sayings" (p. 248).
The Evocative Method: Nearness
"The evocative method practices a perceptive address to living meaning in the act of writing" (p. 249). Accounts are evocative when they have "a stirring quality that involves a sentient or emotional faculty--it establishes a 'feeling understanding' " (p. 249). "[T]he feeling understanding communicated through the presenting of language has an augmenting, enlarging effect. It produces a sense of nearness and intimacy with the phenomenon" (p. 249). "There is no limit to the range of approaches that one can use in bringing experience vividly into presence" (p. 250). Using evocative methods means evoking the felt presence of phenomena along while simultaneously casting light on the phenomena's particular aspects.
The "Anecdote" Lets One Grasp Meaning Experientially
"What makes anecdotes so effective is that they seem to tell something noteworthy or important about life, about the promises and practices, frustrations and failures, events and accidents, disappointments and successes of our everyday living" (p. 250). "Stories or anecdotes are so powerful, so effective, and so consequential in that they can explain things that resist straightforward explanation or conceptualization" (p. 251).
"An anecdote can be constructed from 'lived experience descriptions' gathered through interview, observation, personal experience, related literature, written accounts, or from imagined accounts" (p. 251).
Anecdotes are succinct. Van Manen gives guidelines:
- An anecdote is a very short and simple story.
- An anecdote usually describes a single incident.
- An anecdote begins close to the central moment of the experience.
- An anecdote includes important concrete details.
- An anecdote often contains several quotes (what was said, done, and so on).
- An anecdote closes quickly after the climax or when the incident has passed.
- An anecdote often has an effective 'punchy' last line: it creates punctum. (p. 252)
Punctum is considered as opposed to studium (citing Barthes). "Studium is the interest we have when we open a newspaper" (p. 252). "The difference is this: stadium is the interest we invest in or bring to a photograph but punctum is that what disturbs us, what disturbs the studium" (p. 252). This is comparable to the "breakdown cases" for inquiry mentioned by Brinkmann. Texts have punctum "when an anecdote becomes a compelling narrative 'example' and claims the power to stir us and to bring about an understanding that ordinary propositional discourse cannot do" (p. 253).
Van Manen gives suggestions for working with anecdotes to help make the text insightful and accessible.
- Determine sources for experiential narrative material (interviews, observations, conversations, overheard stories, written accounts, and so on) that are 'examples' of the meaning aspects of the phenomenon that you study in your phenomenological project.
- After collecting such story-like material, interpret what the significant theme(s) are that seem to emerge from the narrative as you read it against the backdrop of your research question--'the lived experience phenomenon' of your study.
- Edit (rewrite) a promising narrative into a vivid anecdote by deleting extraneous or redundant material and retaining theme-relevant material. (Careful: do not overwrite, change, or distort the text).
- If possible check or consult with the source (such as interviewee or author) of the narrative to determine iconic validity (but don't confuse iconic validity with empirical or factual validity). Ask: Does this anecdote show what an aspect of your experience is/was like?
- Next, strengthen and refine (edit) the anecdote further into the direction of the phenomena and its theme(s).
- Ask: 'Does this anecdote show what an aspect of meaning of this experiences or was like?'
- Don't forget that good writing is almost always honing the text through rewriting. (pp. 254-255 )
Shortening anecdotes can make them more evocative and using the present tense helps them become more vivid. Reworking anecdotes amounts to "fictionalizing a factual, empirical, or an already fictional account in order to arrive at a more plausible description of a possible human experience, phenomenon, or event" (p. 256).
Van Manen offers further guidance:
- Remain constantly oriented to the lived experience of the phenomenon.
- Edit the factual content but do not change the phenomenological content.
- Enhance the eidetic or phenomenological theme by strengthening it.
- Aim for the text to acquire strongly embedded meaning.
- When a text is written in the present tense, it can make an anecdote more vocative.
- Use of personal pronouns tends to pull the reader in.
- Extraneous material should be omitted.
- Search for words that are 'just right' in exchange for awkward words.
- Avoid generalizing statements.
- Avoid theoretical terminology.
- Do not rewrite or edit more than absolutely necessary.
- Maintain the textual features of an anecdote as described above. (p. 256).
Anecdote as Phenomenological Example
"The 'anecdotal example' does not express what one knows through an argument or conceptual explication, but, in an evocative manner, an 'anecdotal example' lets one experience what one does not know" (p. 256).
"So in a phenomenological text...the use of an exemplary anecdote may make knowable and understandable the singularity of the experience" (p. 257). This singularity is akin to the notion of "the moment: the uniqueness or singularity of an experience or event" (p. 257).
The "Example" Lets the Singular Be Sensed (Seen, Heard, Felt)
Phenomenology uses stories or examples as data. Phenomenological examples are not the same as examples-as-illustration in that they aren't explanatory, clarifying, or illustrative. "Phenomenology reflects on example in order to discover what is exemplary and singular about a phenomenon or event. Examples in phenomenological inquiry serve to examine and express the aspects of meaning of a phenomenon; examples in phenomenology have evidential significance: the example is the example of something experientially knowable or understandable that is not directly sayable--a singularity" (p. 258).
Figal (2010) refers to these examples as models, which "are reflective conceptions that draw attention to themselves in that they let their inceptive ordinariness be recognized with special clarity" (p. 259). Examples are "a philological device that holds in a certain tension the intelligibility of the singular" (p. 260).
The Invocative Method: Intensification
"The invocative method intensifies philological aspects of the text so that the words intensify their sense and sensuous sensibility" (p. 260). For words to be invocative means they have "a certain desirable intensity when they are composed with strongly embedded meaning" (p. 260). [I]nvocative linguistic devices tend to make words more intense, memorable, and quotable.
Poetic Language: When the Word Becomes "Image"
"When we present an anecdote in a phenomenological text, the sense of the text aspires to become an image. In other words, a phenomenological text aims to explicate as we as poetically invoke the phenomenological intuition" (p. 261). An image, in this sense, can elicit reverberation or resonance in readers. Such resonance ripples through "our understanding, including those reachers of understanding that are somehow pre discursive and noncognitive, and thus less accessible to conceptual and intellectual thought" (p. 261). "The image presents an intuition: an immediate grasping of something that is presented with poetic vividness" (p. 261).
"The essence of the image as a phenomenological device is neither some representational figure depicting the likeness or resemblance of something or someone, nor is the image the visual copy of an original to which it is mimetically related. The image...is an alluring figure of speech that triggers the imaginary faculty. Image enriches the sense of a text with the depth of meaning that invokes the ineffable quality of lived experience" (p. 262).
Images can provoke "an allusive illusionary quality. For example, I may be walking somewhere and unexpectedly discern a visual image that makes me think of something or someone and that gives me an emotional sensibility of recognition" (p. 262).
"The image is not some picture, but the evocative understanding ignited by the image" (p. 262). Poetry gives us a measure of human experience. "[M]easure refers to the awesome sensibility of the experience of the immensity and mystery of the sky above" (p. 262, citing Heidegger, PMD).
"[P]oetic images are imaginings in a distinctive sense; not mere fancies and illusion but imaginings that are visible inclusions of the alien in sight of the familiar" (Heidegger, Poetically Man Dwells).
Textual tone and Aspect Seeing
The "inner meaning" related to poetic images is tone. For Heidegger, eidos refers to the sensuous and nonsensuous aspects of something. The dawning of meaning that is related to the essence of poetic images comes about through poetic meaning, or tone. "Tone creates attunement, a heightened sensitivity to the invoked object" (p. 264). "The point is that any text that contains poetic meaning shares with poetry that it can 'speak' to us in a manner that we experience as particularly striking or thoughtful, though it may be difficult to pin down wherein this thoughtfulness resides" (p. 264).
Wittgenstein refers to "noticing an aspect". This "occurs when we suddenly see something new in what we observe or look at. A great example of this phenomenon is when we notice an aspect in the FedEx logo and realize the presence of the arrow formed between the letters 'e' and 'x'.
Seeing an aspect is not entirely active or passive, but some people may be insensitive to pathic undertones in poetic images. Tone is a technical term here meant to distinguish between kinds of meaning. "[T]one is not just an acoustic affair; it has to do with meaning and felt experience. And so, when we read with tone in a phenomenological sense, then we read for the tonal meaning that the text must be able to offer" (p. 267).
The Convocative Method: Pathic
"The convocative method aims for the text to possess the (em)pathic power to appeal--so that its life meaning speaks to, and makes a demand on, the reader" (p. 267). "To convoke is to create communal ethical space" (p. 267). Phenomenological texts generate pathic knowledge that's related to pathic acting. This is a non cognitive knowledge.
"Knowledge is pathic to the extent that the act of practice depends on the sense and sensuality of the body; personal presence, relational perceptiveness, tact for knowing what to say and do in contingent situations, thoughtful routines and practices, and other aspects of knowledge that are in part prereflective, and yet thoughtful--full of thought" (p. 267). "Pathic texts need to remain oriented to the experiential or lived sensibility of the lifeworld" (p. 268).
The Gnostic and the Pathic
Pathic signifies not gnostic, cognitive, intellectual or technical but rather it is the involvement of emotion, the body, and the poetic. "Pathic knowledge... refers to the immediately felt presence of experience" (p. 268). The "pathic pertains to pathos, meaning the quality that arouses experiential understanding" (p. 268). "In a larger life context, the pathic refers to the general mood, sensibility, sensuality, and felt sense of being in the world" (p. 269). "The pathically tuned body recognizes itself in its responsiveness to the things of our world and to the others who share our world or break into our world. The pathic sense perceives the world in a feeling or emotive modality of knowing and being" (p. 269).
Befindlichkeit is "the sense that we have of ourselves in situations....an implicit, felt understanding of ourselves in situations, even though it is difficult sometimes to put that understanding into worlds" (p. 269).
"We experience the pathic sense of a text when it suddenly 'speaks' to us in a manner that validates our experience, when it conveys an evidential understanding or truth that stirs our sensibilities" (p. 269). The pathic dimension of human experience refers to "the immediate or unmediated and preconceptual relation we have with the things of our world" (p. 270).
"[I]t could also be argued that such pathic knowledge does not only inhere in the body but also in the things of our world, the situation(s) in which we find ourselves, and in the very relations that we maintain with others and the things around us" (p. 270). "In other words, there are modes of knowing that inhere so immediately in our lived practices--in our body, in our relations, and in the things around us--that they seem invisible" (p. 270).
Van Manen suggests four "modalities of knowing that are noncognitive in a pathic sense" (p. 270).
a. In actional knowing we feel that our knowledge resides in our actions: knowledge is action. In a sense we discover what we know, in how we act, in what we can do. This actional knowledge is experienced as confidence in acting, as personal style, as practical tact, and also as habituations, routines, kinesthetic memories, and so on.
b. In situational knowing we feel that our knowledge resides in the things of our world. Indeed, we discover what we know and who we are through the things around us and in the things that belong to us and to which we belong. This situational knowledge is experienced as the way we know ourselves through space, the objects, the contingencies of our daily existences, We experience situations by way of recognition, memory, feeling at home, familiar mood, and so on.
c. In relational knowing we feel that our knowledge resides in relations. We discover what we know in our relations with others, for example, as relations of shared experience, trust, recognition, intimacy; as relations of dependence, dominance, equality, expertise, and so forth. In some relations, we feel comfortable, sure of ourselves, and awkward. Most of us may have experienced teachers with whom we felt bright and knowledgeable, while with other teachers we felt insecure and stupid.
d. In corporeal knowing we feel our knowledge resides in our corporeal being. We discover what we know in our immediate corporeal sense of things and others, and as in our gestures, demeanor, and so on. We trust the body in our daily living and our activities. Thanks to our body knowledge and body memories, we can confidently pick up a hot teapot and pour the drink without spilling. Our body knows how to move around in familiar spaces and places, and how to drive the car in routine traffic. Corporeal knowing also expresses itself in the smell of the city in which we live, the particular smell of autumn leaves under our foot, the familiar smell of supper in our kitchen at home. (p. 271)
Van Manen discusses differences between diagnostic and pathic professional care-giving practices. "[D]iagnostic practice first of all searches for symptomatic clues and determining factors in the patient's history [to] ....look for causal, symptomatic, or developmental patterns" (p. 278). "Thus, the gnostic mode of thinking and practicing leads to a certain idea of the meaning of healing; the gnostic approach is to locate the pathology and then to 'cut out' the intrusion that has been festering there for days, weeks, or even years" (p. 278).
"The difference is this: pathic thought turns itself immediately and directly to the person himself or herself. A pathic relation is always specific and unique....The pathic orientation meets this concrete person in the heart of his or her existence, without trying to reduce the patient to a diagnostic picture, a certain kind of case, or a theoretical classification. In other words, there is something deeply personal or intersubjective to the pathic relation" (p. 280).
The Provocative Method: Epiphany
"The provocative method articulates the kind of ethical predicaments that are suggested in the phenomenon that is being studied, and what are the active normative responses (advice, policies, tactful practices, and so on).... A strong vocative text tends to provoke actions. It is action sensitive, opening up the realm of the ethical" (p. 281).
"Lived throughness is the revocative quality of a text that brings an experience vividly in our presence. This sense of lived throughness may be accomplished through the use of experiential descriptions, concrete imagery, and poetic or anecdotal examples" (p. 285). "Concreteness of text places us right in the midst of lived reality where a phenomenon... can be felt" (p. 287).
"Evocation means that experience is brought vividly into presence, so that we can phenomenologically reflect on it" (p. 287). "Evocation calls forth, or brings to immediate presence, images and sensibilities that are so crisp and real that they in turn evoke reflective responses such as wondering, questioning, understanding" (p. 287). "When the phenomenologist strives for vividness, it is not for the sake of vividness itself, but for the precise aim of evoking particular images that call forth and bring into presence relevant aspects of the experience in which we are interested, so that we can reflect on the meanings that inhere in them" (p. 289).
"Intensification means that we must give key-words their invocative value, so that layers of phenomenological meaning become strongly embedded in the text" (p. 289). Descriptions get grounded concretely within the lifeworld through which they emerge. Language evokes vivid images through poetic forms of meaning and felt understandings.
"The tone of the text has to do with its convocative pathic quality" (p. 292).
"Epiphany means that a text has a provocative quality, so that its deeper meaning may exercise and provoke a transformative effect on the reader" (p. 293). "[P]henomenological understandings are what ideas feel like" (p. 295).