ABOUT THE MASTER OF ARTS IN WRITING AND THE GRADUATE CERTIFICATE IN NARRATIVE HEALTHCARE
LR’s Master of Arts in Writing is designed to prepare students for careers in creative writing, the teaching of writing, and/or the development of advanced writing skills as a powerful tool within one’s chosen profession. In addition to fundamental courses in rhetorical theory, editing, and publishing, students participate in a journey of discovery –exploring the evolution of a literary genre through reading select works. Students engage scholarship in literature, narrative theory, and creative process development to prepare to be the storytellers and story interpreters in professional and cultural environments.
LR’s Writing program is offered through the Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative on its Asheville campus. It offers graduate-level courses in narrative training across disciplines in Thomas Wolfe’s hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. Drawing on the creative, social, historical, and intellectual legacy of Thomas Wolfe, the Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative upholds the practices of positive aesthetics--exploration, eloquence, and attention in developing expansive and insightful narrative. Students at the Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative write boldly and much, seeking the shape of story that emerges organically from deep engagement with topic and with close consideration of the multiple forces at work within all stories, including social dynamic and geographical history.
Coursework includes Explorations in the Evolutions of Poetry, Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, as well as Workshops in these genres and others. Students also engage Special Topics such as Screenplay and Children's Literature. All students complete self-designed Internships and present a Portfolio of completed work upon degree completion. This is a program for writers from all backgrounds, regardless of undergraduate majors, because Narrative applies to all fields of work and to being human.
All faculty in the LR Writing program are appropriately credentialed. In addition to established writers, a variety of community professionals employed in various relevant settings provide instruction and guidance. The program is flexible enough to fit the schedule of anyone, whether entering directly from an undergraduate program, in mid-career, or considering a career change. Courses are available through online and face-to-face delivery for the convenience of working students. The length of time to complete this program varies based on class load and the scheduling of classes. The program can be completed on average in two years or can be taken at a pace conducive to the student’s schedule. Often, distance options are available for courses to best accommodate real life.
LR’s Writing program furnishes students two options of study: the MA in Writing and a Graduate Certificate in Narrative Healthcare. The Graduate Certificate in Narrative Healthcare offers the following disciplines: Narrative Medicine, Expressive Writing, Poetic Medicine, Arts in Medicine, and Medical Humanities.
The 36-hour Master of Arts in Writing degree includes coursework and/or workshops in poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction; Evolution of Genre courses in poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction; Foundations in Rhetorical Theory and Research; Practica in Publishing and Editing throughout all courses; Special Topics Electives such as Screenplay, Journalism, Environmental Writing, Transformative Writing; and more.
Students in the program apply narratology to creative writing, engaging the construction of meaning while exploring the process of creation. Workshops and Genre courses utilize close reading to support understanding of how narrative devices in all genres strengthen work; this sets the conversation free of the often ungrounded commentary that can cloud collaboration and learning. Students develop a language for increasing meaning in writing, and this supports a helpful, positive environment and community free of the “tearing down” that comes in absence of this language.
The Certificate in Narrative Healthcare at Lenoir-Rhyne Asheville
The Lenoir-Rhyne University Narrative Healthcare Certificate Program offers a sampling of aesthetics-based methodologies which help build empathy, communication, better care, and mindfulness. Students read, write, and discuss issues as teams in the disciplines listed below. Online courses with webex symposia comprise the program.
The program seeks to support practitioners who recognize the value of patient-centered care. Using the Robert Wood Johnson publication “The Narrative Playbook” as a guide, students venture into the multiple roles of story—as communication, as healing process, as diagnostic tool, as prevention of burn-out, and as medicine itself. Examples of areas of study are as follows:
Narrative Medicine: Narrative Medicine applies Narrative Theory to the context of the clinical care. A protocol for intervention in the loss of empathy experienced during medical training Narrative Medicine employs close reading, reflective writing, and witnessing to develop our ability to attend to, interpret, metabolize and be moved by patient stories. The Narrative Medicine modules of this program are grounded the work and teachings of Dr. Rita Charon and her team at the Narrative Medicine Program at Columbia University Program for Physicians and Surgeons.
Expressive Writing: Expressive Writing invites patients, providers, and caregivers to apply various modes of writing to healing. Supported by facilitators, individuals develop meaning from trauma and stress. Students of Expressive Writing discover data supporting writing’s ability to reduce anxiety and increase resilience. The Narrative Heatlhcare Program works closely with John Evans, co-author with James Pennebaker, of Transform Your Health: Writing to Heal, and facilitator for Duke Integrative Medicine workshops on Expressive Writing.
Poetic Medicine: Based in the work of John Fox of the Institute for Poetic Medicine, explorations in Poetic Medicine include study of metaphor as transformative agents in healing. Students write and read poems of witness and experience while learning about Poetic Medicine programs.
Arts in Medicine: Arts in Medicine programs such as that at Shands Hospital at University of Florida integrate arts into healthcare. Murals on hospital walls, guitarists strumming Bach at bedside, creative writing sessions, dance despite disability all enrich patient experience of illness and help them discover personal paths to healing beyond diagnosis. Students are encouraged to envision and create programs.
Medical Humanities: Medical Humanities Programs have co-existed with medical education for decades. Their purpose is to encourage providers to see the whole human when treating pathologies. As with Narrative Medicine, students view films and paintings and read stories. Such works address illness and healing, the interior experience of healthcare.
In both programs, students at the Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative create work always in small groups defined by mutual respect and supportive listening. They engage one another’s work from a perspective of deep inquiry, searching together for what a work wants to be and presents in its draft form. Course participants are readers first rather than critics. Once colleagues have collaboratively explored a classmate’s draft, they entertain questions and possibilities, drawing on what is already on the page rather than venturing into remote hypotheticals. This way, the learning community keeps respect for the draft and for its author and recognizes how it operates as a unique entity in the world, with its own story.
To support this process, students develop strong close-reading skills through regular and rigorous community practice. While themes drive story, techniques deliver their power to the reader. Through coursework in genre evolution and workshop, students develop material for a final portfolio. Students have created novels, memoirs, collections of poetry, and screenplays. They have multiple opportunities through their tenure in the program to develop this project, accruing skill and content in every class and participating in revision sessions either independently or with a group.
Because developing one’s voice and producing a manuscript are only a part of becoming a writer, students in The Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative participate in publishing and editing workshops so they can graduate knowing how to send work to journals and also how to build a successful platform. Also, because Lenoir-Rhyne University recognizes the value of students’ investment in the Center it returns that investment by offering publication of student work when it is ready.
The Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative recognizes that students need to be able to support themselves as writers after graduation. To this end, students participate in professional and creative internships. Some students have interned at magazines and worked as grant-writers and PR-firm publicists; others have administered creative-writing programs at schools and apprenticed to luminaries in their field. Faculty listen closely to student visions and reach into the community to help each student find a positive pathway.