Writing's Potential to Heal: Women Writing from Their Bodies

Kate Vieira


While studies in the biological and psychological sciences have suggested that writing can promote physical healing, such studies offer a limited understanding of writing as a complex, embodied, and social practice. This article asks how and under what social and pedagogical conditions writing might promote experiences of healing in community settings. Specifically, I describe findings from a design-based study of a writing workshop held in conjunction with a physical therapy retreat for women seeking physical restoration. I find that highlighting the elements of narrative, metaphor, environment, and art in the writing workshops promoted women's experiences of physical healing, with the public sharing of body-based writing being especially empowering in a larger political context of gender oppression. The article concludes by calling for critical qualitative studies of writing to heal (including critical attention to the term "healing" itself) across varied community sites, which address writing's relationship to bodies, social context, and power.

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Publication of the Community Literacy Journal is made possible through the generous support of the English Department and the Writing and Rhetoric Program at Florida International University. The CLJ is a journal of the Conference on Community Writing.