Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

The Invocative Turn

Intensification: The intensification of a text’s language implies that its meaning becomes more universal, more general. The meaning of words and phrases is universalized.


When concrete things are named in text in which words are intensified, a peculiar effect may occur: its textual meaning begins to address us. We say: “this poem, this text, speaks to me!”


The “speaking” of language gives us the feeling that we are brought “in touch” with something and thus “see” something in a manner that is revealing of its experiential sense. The universalizing or generalizing feature of the text is not empirical or factual but rather it has a stirring quality that involves a sentient or emotional faculty –it establishes a “feeling understanding”. What happens is that the “feeling understanding” communicated through the intensification of language has an augmenting, enlarging effect. It intensifies our sense of meaningfulness.


At the same time as it universalizes meaning, however, intensification also underscores the particular. Because the content of the phenomenological text is concrete, particular and experiential, the intensification of its meaning implies that the vividness of its unique detail will also be heightened.


The term “invoke” derives from invocare, to call upon, to appeal to, to implore, to conjure, to bring about, to call forth by incantation. The writer invokes powers of language to have certain effects on the reader. Words become infected or contaminated by the meanings of other words to which they stand in alliterative or repetitive relation. It is important to be mindful of how words accomplish this –how they seem to acquire a certain tone and a more strongly embedded meaning when used recurrently and poetically.