Dialogues on the Experience of War is an NEH program that uses the literature of war to connect veterans with their communities. At Auburn University, Mark Wilson saw the NEH’s call for proposals as an intriguing opportunity to bring public humanities programming to new groups of people. Over the course of a year, six groups from Alabama rural communities met to discuss literature and their personal experiences of war. Reading the World War I memoir Scarlet Fields helped groups build trust and comfort with one another while discussing distant events; later, reading The Things They Carried and Dispatches helped many Vietnam veterans share their experiences, some of them for the first time. Through the university’s Alabama Prison Arts + Education program, two related courses were offered to veterans who are also imprisoned. All of the programs helped veterans find welcoming places in their communities to share their stories, much as they helped community members learn to talk to veterans about their war experiences.
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