“Adventures in Pencil”: A Feminist Approach to Healing through Poetry

By Laura Severin.

Published by The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Expressive writing, a concept originated by James Pennebaker in 1986, has become an established approach to improving the quality of life for cancer patients. This tradition inspired Maggie’s Centre-Edinburgh psychologists to develop the creative writing workshop, “Adventures in Pencil,” in 2008. However, as Sophie Nicholls has argued (2009), the expressive writing paradigm is somewhat limited in its narrow focus on written expression, to the exclusion of other variables. She has suggested that newer approaches to expressive writing, involving entire courses, point out the importance of context, i.e. the space in which the group meets, the talent of the facilitators, and the cohesion of the group. The importance of context for “Adventures in Pencil” can be further elaborated through a feminist paradigm, which makes visible the course’s emphasis on bodily comfort, collaboration, and connectedness.

“Adventures in Pencil” is held in a space envisioned by creator Maggie Keswick Jencks as an antidote to hospital environments and is led by two skilled facilitators, poet Valerie Gillies and clinical psychologist, Deirdre Carr, who use both sound and language, or Kristeva’s semiotic and symbolic, to create a cohesive group. Invisible in an expressive writing paradigm, these features are essential elements of the course’s healing effects.

Keywords: Poetry, Cancer Therapy, Feminist Theory

The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts, Volume 10, Issue 3, September, 2015, pp.9-15. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 417.728KB).

Dr. Laura Severin

Professor of English, Department of English, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA