Taught by Dr. Rob Merritt, professor and chair of the Department of English and dean of the College of Arts and Letters, the “Literature and Healing” class is open to the public at a cost of $65 per person.
“This course is about the power of narrative in our lives,” said Dr. Merritt, “and would be interesting to college students, health care professionals, and any members of the community curious to explore the power of writing to engage the mind, body and spirit; to foster personal growth; to promote personal healing; and to increase empathy and awareness for cultural healing.”
Participants will be encouraged to imagine ways to incorporate literature and creative expression into their lives. The literary works that form the basis of the course — including Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making by pioneer in the field John Fox — will focus on a range of universal themes, such as self-image, relationship patterns, finding balance and beauty in daily life, grief and loss; and adapting to life’s transitions.
The course will also explore scientific data behind the theory of literature and healing, including that of Professor James Pennebaker at the University of Texas, whose research documents the physiological benefits of expressive writing.
“In a supportive atmosphere fostering spontaneity and creativity, we will also engage in expressive writing activities related to these literary works,” said Dr. Merritt. “A variety of active teaching and learning methods will be used, including discussions, presentations, films, written assignments, and numerous group and individual hands-on class activities.”
Dr. Merritt added that he has spoken to doctors in our community who believe in the importance of helping patients tell their narratives in health care, particularly in palliative care and Hospice work. He said he knows counselors devoted to the power of metaphor in how we envision our lives. “Change your metaphor,” he said, “and change your life.”
The course is designed to appeal to those with a scientific or a humanities inclination for considering growth and healing, which must take place, Dr. Merritt said, within a supportive community. This class, he added, will be such a community.
“In the deserts of the heart, let the healing fountain start,” quoted Dr. Merritt from the work of W.H. Auden. For more information about the class, contact Dr. Merritt by phone at 276-326-4270 or by email at [email protected]. To register, contact Jennifer Lamb by phone at 276-326-4215 or by email at [email protected], or submit a “non-degree” application at www.bluefield.edu/application.