UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

T.’s lifeworld and language Johnson, Larry Colvin


During his twelve years of life, T., a gifted boy who was born with severe cerebral palsy, achieved the ability to communicate with "the rest of the world" at an advanced level, though he used facilitated and augmentative communication. The author of this narrative and interpretive study is T.'s father, who maintained a unique dialogue with his son. T. himself volunteered to contribute actively to the study by helping to plan and to edit, and by supplying a number of autobiographical sketches. The pedagogical relationship that existed between T. and his father is prominently featured. The study explores T.'s individual case through thirteen narrative "scenes" (beginning with his birth and ending with his twelfth year), which address various particulars of his lifeworld and his language development. Each narrative scene is followed by two, three, or four interpretive passages, each of which interprets one of seven themes that emerged from T.'s life. The seven themes are: memory, observation, scientific/technological assessment, not foreclosing on the future, integration, communication, and growth. The interpretive passages treat the seven themes at four levels of interpretation: the literal level, the moral level, the allegorical level, and the anagogic level. The attempt is to revive an exegetic practice common in the days before the Enlightenment, Cartesian doubt, and the "mathematical project" (Heidegger, 1993c, p. 293). Following the dictum that "the hermeneutic imagination is not limited in its conceptual resources to the texts of the hermeneutic tradition itself" (Smith, 1991, p. 201), the study borrows from a variety of sources, including Astrology, Waldorf education, and Zen. The reader is offered a direct experience of "the fecundity of the individual case" (Gadamer, cited in Jardine, 1994, p. 143). Emerging, through the thirteen scenes, the seven themes, and the four levels of interpretation, is a unique picture of an exceptional boy's language development.

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