Towards a phenomenology of dyslexia
In this thesis I apply Merleau-Ponty's brand of existential phenomenology to the developmental language disorder 'dyslexia'. Developmental dyslexia is marked by an unexpected failure to acquire written language skills, in particularly reading, spelling and aspects of writing, and has primarily been studied by experimental cognitive psychology, physiology, and more recently, the neurosciences. The current explanatory paradigm holds the view that symptoms of dyslexia are caused by deficits in phonological skills, in particularly verbal memory and phoneme awareness. As a means of facilitating previous research, I take a phenomenological approach to the pre-reflective, lived experience of dyslexia by studying the peculiar style of intentional relationships that are developed by dyslexics in linguistic situations. This approach adopts a non-causal, descriptive methodology which attends to the manner in which dyslexics not only have a disrupted experience of the written word, but also a meaningful relationship with language. Using the notion of the 'lived body', I propose that dyslexics are marked by a loosening of body intentionality in linguistic situations, and this is further interpreted as an incohesive sedimentation of skills. I apply these general findings to the topics of spatiality, expression and temporality, and conclude that dyslexics exhibit a different style of being-in-the-world. This difference in style is characterised as an interaction between the propensity to foreclose the transitional and differential structures of perceptual experience, and moreover, the possibility of sustaining a provisional relationship with language through the development of compensatory strategies, the latter of these observations prompting a new line of future qualitative research.