Therapy, Stand-Up, and the Gesture of Writing: Towards Creative-Relational Inquiry, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Therapy, Stand-Up, and the Gesture of Writing

Towards Creative-Relational Inquiry, 1st Edition

By Jonathan Wyatt


214 pages

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Paperback: 9781138897700
pub: 2018-12-17
Hardback: 9781138897625
pub: 2018-12-04
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pub: 2018-12-07
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Therapy, Stand-Up, and the Gesture of Writing is a sharp, lively exploration of the connections between therapy, stand-up comedy, and writing as a method of inquiry; and of how these connections can be theorized through the author’s new concept: creative-relational inquiry. Engaging, often poignant, stories combine with rich scholarship to offer the reader provocative, original insights.

Wyatt writes about his work as a therapist with his client, Karl, as they meet and talk together. He tells stories of his experiences attending comedy shows in Edinburgh and of his own occasional performances. He brings alive the everyday profound through vignettes and poems of work, travel, visiting his mother, mourning his late father, and more. The book’s drive, however, is in bringing together therapy, stand-up, and writing as a method of inquiry to mobilise theory, drawing in particular from Deleuze and Guattari, the new materialisms, and affect theory. Through this diffractive work, the text formulates and develops creative-relational inquiry.

With its combination of fluent story-telling and smart, theoretical propositions, Therapy, Stand-up, and the Gesture of Writing offers compelling possibilities both for qualitative scholars who have an interest in narrative, performative, and embodied scholarship, and those who desire to bring current, complex, theories to bear upon their research practices.


Luminous, playful, intimate, poetic and surprising—this book will touch you, it will take you over, take you inside yourself and outside yourself. It invites you to lose yourself in the material, relational fleshiness of life. Wyatt catches moments of being and becoming in the way only great writers can do. He experiments with thinking otherwise, and asks the reader to encounter the words on the page so they (and you) come alive, escaping into the new, the unexpected, and the vital. He takes you inside a magic circle where anything can happen—and does.

Bronwyn Davies, Emeritus Professor, Western Sydney University

Jonathan Wyatt’s Therapy, Stand-Up, and the Gesture of Writing comes to me like a compelling poem. In general, the book is about the unfolding and enfolding of therapy, stand-up and writing, and indeed the book teaches me a great deal about those subjects, but it is equally about thinking and feeling in the ongoing process of becoming. It is a poetic gift. Its gentle rhythms find their own form. Its language surrounds, seduces. Its "creative-relational inquiry," to use Wyatt’s rich term, opens new ways of moving through the world.

Ronald J. Pelias, Professor Emeritus, Southern Illinois University

This is a wonderful book; a book full of elicitations of wonder. Jonathan writes in a style that is seductively conversational, a style that is imbued with affect in a book that never stumbles into proclivities of simply human concerns and emotional response. The book is powerfully energised by the everyday; Jonathan is a hugely adept storyteller and so these vignettes, accounts and exemplifications carry the reader with them into almost unwitting engagements with exciting, profound theorisings with practices of life and facilitations of worlding. Here there are encounters inhabited and animated by clients, family, audiences at stand-up gigs and, through enunciations of these, Jonathan offers diffractive pathways into practices of creative-relational inquiry. This is a book that picks you up, then needs to be carried and can’t be put down.

Ken Gale, Lecturer, University of Plymouth, UK

I love this book. It is going to be a classic in our field. The writing is so inviting, so visceral, so open. The topics the book explores are familiar ones, but Wyatt looks at them in fresh ways that are inspiring both to senior researchers and to those new to qualitative inquiry. And I have never read a better introduction to Deleuze and Guattari: he makes their vocabulary understandable at an ethnographic, bodily and emotional level. I especially love Wyatt’s metaphors, like the idea of the ‘white chalk circle’ on the floor for the stand-up comedian being also understood as the chalk circle in a therapeutic session, and in the writer's relationships with real and imagined co-writers and readers. All these are sacred spaces where surprises might happen. One of the things about the book I loved is how Wyatt handles the issue of ‘trust’. We trust the therapist, the writer, the stand-up. That trust is necessary for qualitative researchers to do their work, and with trust comes other ethical questions: What do we reveal? What do we hide? How do we decide? I trust that Jonathan has led us towards creative-relational inquiry. That is what is most important.

Laurel Richardson, Professor Emerita, Ohio State University

This book is a wholly original gesture at a world of circuits breathing with the rhythms of something happening, refrains working thresholds of matter and meaning. An ordinary room is a milieu of compositions: the this-ness of the mic, the alcohol, the weather, that shirt. A beautiful, brilliant book, it catches up the reader in the worldly thinking of a shoulder shrugged, a joke, the resonance of a word in a room.

Kathleen Stewart, Professor, University of Texas at Austin

The form and content of Therapy, Stand-up, and the Gesture of Writing offers embodied insight into a creative-relational inquiry revealing new paths in the development of qualitative methodologies. With deft reflexivity Wyatt reveals connections and slippages among seemingly disparate experiences of therapy, humor, and writing as inquiry; such connections are a hallmark of groundbreaking qualitative research. This is a transdisciplinary must-read for writers and researchers.

Tami Spry, Professor, St. Cloud State University

This is a powerful and thought provoking book. It gives shape and form to innovative modes of inquiry to open up significant perspectives on comedy, therapy and writing. Like a good stand up routine, the risks pay off. The writing enlivens thinking, method and theory. A major contribution

Iain MacRury, Faculty of Media and Communication, Bournemouth University

Table of Contents

Part 1: Openings

Chapter 1. An Introduction

Chapter 2. Something Might Happen

Chapter 3. Always More

Interval. Towards Creative-Relational Inquiry (1): Take it to Heart

Part 2: Refrains

Chapter 4. What Has Stand-Up Ever Done for Writing as Inquiry? The Refrain, Surprise, Pete and his Lemons

Chapter 5. The Refrains of Therapy and the Everyday

Chapter 6. Three Shits: A Connection of Some Kind

Chapter 7. Counselling on a Scale of 1 To 5

Chapter 8. Out Here a Man Settles his Own Problems: Learning from John Wayne

Interval. Towards Creative-Relational Inquiry (2): The Problem and Promise of the Personal

Part 3: Reframings

Chapter 9. Once Upon a Time a Story Hit Back

Chapter 10. Shadow Bands: Thinking Therapy Diffractively

Chapter 11. W/b/rought to Life

Interval. Towards Creative-Relational Inquiry (3): The Poetics of the Hyphen

Part 4: Reframings (Continued): Shame

Chapter 12. Two Stories of Shame: Calling Upon The Cailleach

Chapter 13. Meditation on a Green Light Bulb

Chapter 14. A Third Story of Shame: Hannah Gadsby


About the Author


Jonathan Wyatt

Edinburgh, -- select one --, United Kingdom

Learn more about Jonathan Wyatt >>

Jonathan Wyatt is Professor of Qualitative Inquiry and Director of the Centre for Creative-Relational Inquiry at The University of Edinburgh. Originally an English teacher and youth worker, he worked for ten years as a counsellor in a doctors’ surgery alongside being Head of Professional Development at the University of Oxford, before heading north to Scotland in 2013.

About the Series

Writing Lives: Ethnographic Narratives

Writing Lives: Ethnographic and Autoethnographic Narratives publishes autoethnographic and narrative research projects across the disciplines of the human sciences—anthropology, communication, education, psychology, sociology, etc. The series editors seek manuscripts that blur the boundaries between humanities and social sciences. We encourage novel and evocative forms of expressing concrete lived experience, including literary, poetic, artistic, critical, visual, performative, multi-voiced, and co-constructed representations. We are interested in ethnographic and autoethnographic narratives that depict local stories; employ literary modes of scene setting, dialogue, character development, and unfolding action; and include the author's critical reflections on the research and writing process, such as research ethics, alternative modes of inquiry and representation, reflexivity, and evocative storytelling.
Prospective authors should submit a Routledge Book Proposal form, current CV, and a completed or nearly-completed manuscript to,, and

Book proposal form: please download the 'Textbook' guidelines at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Research & Methodology