Literary Bridges: Creative writing, trauma and testimony

Jen Webb, Meera Atkinson, Jordan Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
114 Downloads (Pure)


In public discourse, there is a tendency for arts and science – or, more broadly, academic research – to be cast as irreconcilable at best and oppositional at worst. However, the explication of trauma, resilience and wellbeing in creative writing is as much a matter of science communication as literary practice. It involves writing down the bones of the phenomena that researchers chart and treat, exploiting the narrative and poetic properties of such endeavours, and making explicit both cognition and affect, empirical evidence and felt experience. It is evident in fictional worldmaking, creative nonfiction, poetry, and in hybrid works such as narratives that combine memoir and scholarship. Such diverse approaches to literary expression do not necessarily aim to extend theory or present experimental data, but to provide opportunities for alternative ways to view and review such material content, and explicitly incorporate imaginative and evocative engagements. At their best, such writings enact a form of affective, micro-macro testimony that has the potential to demystify scholarly findings, personalise and humanise related issues, confront denial and minimisation, and build bridges between what C.P. Snow named the “two cultures”. This paper begins by considering Snow’s advice to rethink how science and literature operate, and moves on to discuss hybrid and multiple lines of knowledge and practice – in fiction, memoir and personal writing, and healing workshops – that can build bridges across knowledge domains and social cultures, and afford recovery from personal, community and environmental trauma.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


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