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Dialogues on the Experience of War is a book discussion series that uses ancient literature and contemporary readings to help veterans release and re-appropriate their experience of war and return. The facilitation model was developed by Roberta Stewart, Professor of Classics at Dartmouth College, who has conducted book discussions with and for veterans for nine years in the Upper Valley. Each facilitator team consists of a literary scholar, a clinician from the veteran-serving community, and a veteran. To prepare for the series, New Hampshire Humanities partnered with Dartmouth to host facilitator trainings over three weekends this summer in Hanover. This fall book groups will begin in Hanover, Littleton, Manchester, and Portsmouth.
The partners’ belief in the power of reading and storytelling to build personal and collective identity and deepen human ties is a philosophy critical to the success of this project. The training has emphasized the act of reading in community with other veterans; together, they discover timeless and universal truths that can provide essential moments of reflection and insight for mapping a return home from war. Homer provides a salutary distancing, a safe past that veterans can appropriate for their own.
Veterans commit to participating in 14 weeks of small group, face-to-face conversations that involve open talking, close listening, and, given time, as Stewart has found, the building of a caring group dynamic. The convictions behind this project are deeply resonant with the mission of New Hampshire Humanities – to engage the public in important human stories and questions through civil discourse and community-based programs. In this case, the problems of veteran homecoming emerge as historical problems that cross cultural, political, ethnic, and class boundaries.
In phase two of Dialogues, which begins in the fall of 2017, we will invite the public to participate with the veterans. Veteran participants will have had a deep bonding experience and a careful, guided course in reading. These veterans will be primed to help us evaluate and sustain what we have done, forming a nucleus around which to promote and recruit new groups of veterans and civilians. Phase two aims to bridge the gap in experiential understanding between military and civilian culture and decrease veteran isolation from the community.
Click HERE for some recent press coverage New Hampshire Humanities has received about this innovative statewide program.
New Hampshire Humanities programs are made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this these programs do not necessarily represent those of the NEH or New Hampshire Humanities.