Explain what is phenomenological interpretation?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, phenomenology is defined by the following:

Phenomenology is the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. The central structure of an experience is its intentionality, its being directed toward something, as it is an experience of or about some object. An experience is directed toward an object by virtue of its content or meaning (which represents the object) together with appropriate enabling conditions.

Based upon this definition, interpretation of a text can be studied phenomenologically by looking at the experience which a character finds them self in and tying it to what has happened previously in the text. To example, a character who has been violated in the past would typically be shy to environments which are similar to the current situation they find themselves in. A common way to bring forth phenomenology is to define an object by a previous experience with it. If a character has been in a car accident, a fear of driving or riding in a car could form. The character, then, would consciously make a decision about the object (a car) and their feelings about it.

This is typically very important for an author, to find a way for a reader to realte to the text and, more specifically, to a character. By doing this, the author is insuring that the reader will get the most out of the text- will come away having learned something about themselves or the world around them.

This effect also allows a reader to become engaged and active while reading the text. If a reader has experienced situations similar to that of a character, it allows the reader to relate to the character and, therefore, creates a relationship between the reader and the character.

Eagleton writes, “The text itself is reduced to a pure embodiment of the author’s consciousness: all of its stylistic and semantic aspects are grasped as organic parts of a complex totality, of which the unifying essence is the author’s mind” (51).

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