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Literature as an exploration of the phenomenology of schizophrenia: disorder and recovery in Denis Johnson's Jesus’ Son
  1. Jay A Hamm1,
  2. Bethany L Leonhardt2,
  3. Rebecca L Fogley2,
  4. Paul H Lysaker3,4
  1. 1Midtown Community Mental Health Center, Eskenazi Health, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
  2. 2School of Psychological Sciences, University of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
  3. 3Richard L Roudebush VA Medical Center, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
  4. 4Department of Psychiatry, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jay A Hamm, Wishard Health Services, Midtown Community Mental Health Center, 1700 N Illinois St, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA; jay.a.hamm{at}


When read as a fictional psychosis narrative, Jesus’ Son, a collection of short stories by Denis Johnson, reveals important elements of the phenomenology of schizophrenia and recovery. It is possible that Jesus’ Son, as a work of fiction, may be able to uniquely add depth and nuance to an understanding of the phenomenology of schizophrenia involving a state of psychological fragmentation, an ever-changing interpersonal field and a loss of personal agency. In addition, by following the protagonist in Jesus’ Son as he begins to resolve some of his difficulties, the book also offers an individualised account of recovery. The authors detail how the book reveals these insights about schizophrenia and recovery and suggest that these elements are intertwined in such a manner that leads to a profound disruption of self-experience, characterised by a collapse of metacognitive processes. Jesus’ Son may add depth to our understanding of the subjective experience of schizophrenia and recovery, and also may serve as one example in which the study of humanities offers an opportunity to explore the human elements in the most profound forms of suffering.

  • schizophrenia
  • recovery
  • phenomenology
  • psychosis
  • metacognition

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