Faith Development Theory in Psychobiography and Writing

With regard to FDT in writing and psychobiographical research, only a few authors (e.g. Elifson & Stone, 1985) could be found who have dealt with the topic of FDT and writing and it has been pointed out that FDT and writing related to “the individual’s attained view of world coherence is the writer’s ability to adapt to various modes of discourse (narration, exposition, argumentation, etc.) to express various ideas” (Elifson & Stone, 1985, p. 32).

In this context, the authors (Elifson & Stone, 1985) highlight that any writer who is not clear about his/her own and personal base of moral decision-making, competing claims and a conceptual system with its paradoxical truth might be restricted in his/her writing ability and should therefore focus on faith development.

The FDT has been used in previous psychobiographical research projects, such as a study on John Wesley (Fowler, 2001), as well as the study of the life of Mother Theresa (Stroud, 2004), the study on Beyers Naude (Burnell, 2013; Fouche et al., 2016) and studies on Anne Hutchinson, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Blaise Pascal and Malcom X (Fowler & Lovin, 1979).

Van Genechten (2009), who has written a psychobiography study on Helen Keller by using Levinson’s life structure theory, highlights in her recommendations (Van Genechten, 2009, p. 87) that the use of James Fowler’s FDT could provide new insights into the life of Helen Keller and could reveal further dimensions of her development. Collins (2013) emphasises that in the psychobiography on Jesus, the stages of faith development analysis could provide deeper insights and new perspectives into Jesus and his life. Other studies have dealt with faith in the context of psychobiographical analysis (e.g. Kramer, 2002) and Runyan (2006) has pointed out that faith is crucial for phenomenologists who dedicate themselves to psychobiographical research.

As presented, some psychobiographical studies suggest using Fowler’s FDT as a useful model for a psychobiographical researcher; however, only a few studies could be found that applied FDT in psychobiographical research. Even fewer could be found that referred to FDT in the lives of writers and authors. This adds to the statement of Streib (2005) in Sect. 5.7 that Fowler’s FDT has mainly been used in quantitative studies and that there is an urgent need to apply it in qualitative studies, such as psychobiographies, to contribute to theory development and a deeper “Verstehen”, as described in Sect. 6.3. Stroud (2004) adds to this argument by emphasising that the FDT should be used even more across psychobiographical studies to contribute to new longitudinal insights on the development of faith in individuals.

This study refers to these suggestions and uses Fowler’s FDT to achieve deeper insights and new scientific findings of faith in the life and creative works of Paulo Coelho.

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