"An Event in Sound" Considerations on the Ethical-Aesthetic Traits of the Hermeneutic Phenomenological Text


  • Carina Henriksson
  • Tone Saevi




phenomenology, hermeneutic phenomenology, the Utrecht school, methodology


In this article, we discuss some of the linguistic features of hermeneutic-phenomenological writing and, in so doing, we point to the close connection between lived experience and the ethical-aesthetic traits of writing the experience. Our exploration starts by contemplating texts written by the so-called Utrecht School. We reflect on their orientation as it has been understood, developed, and advocated by Max van Manen. The literary style of the Utrecht orientation is sometimes misunderstood and questioned. This article aims to explicate why and how hermeneutic phenomenology needs an expressive language to "write the lived experience" rather than to simply write "about" the lived experience. Lived experiences are always past experiences that we try to bring into the present, and so the difference between recollections and memories are discussed in connection to writing the experience. We argue that what is being told and not seen is, metaphorically speaking, an event in sound, which can have ethical and aesthetic virtues of truth and beauty. Lived experiences, whether written as anecdotes or as other kinds of experiential accounts, can shine forth through the use of expressive language. But is this kind of language poetry? Can such an account be regarded as poetic writing? If it is poetic writing, exactly how does it differ from academic writing? Our exploration of questions like these leads us to the tentative conclusion that, as hermeneutic phenomenological researchers, we dwell in the borderland between a "poetic attitude" and a utilitarian writing style.