Past Project: Henry’s Demons
By Zsofia Demjen, on 29 July 2017
In 2015, Elena Semino of Lancaster University and Zsofia Demjen of UCL published a paper applying linguistic analysis to Patrick and Henry Cockburn’s autobiographical narrative Henry’s Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son’s Story (2011, Simon & Schuster).
The book recounts the events surrounding Henry Cockburn’s diagnosis of schizophrenia from the alternating perspectives of Henry himself and his father Patrick. In our paper, we present a detailed linguistic analysis of Henry’s first-person accounts of experiences that could be described as auditory verbal hallucinations. We first provide a typology of Henry’s voices, taking into account who or what is presented as speaking, what kinds of utterances they produce and any salient stylistic features of these utterances. We then discuss the linguistically distinctive ways in which Henry represents these voices in his narrative. We focus on the use of Direct Speech as opposed to other forms of speech presentation, the use of the sensory verbs hear and feel and the use of ‘non-factive’ expressions such as I thought and as if. We show how different linguistic representations may suggest phenomenological differences between the experience of hallucinatory voices and the perception of voices that other people can also hear. We, therefore, propose that linguistic analysis is ideally placed to provide in-depth accounts of the phenomenology of voice hearing and point out the implications of this approach for clinical practice and mental healthcare.