The Value of Literature for Mindfulness, Health and Well-Being: Challenges, Concepts and Suggestions for Literary Studies in the 21st Century

Honorary doctorate lecture by Ansgar Nünning, Professor of English and American Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Giessen.

This public lecture attempts to discuss and explore three key questions that have so far failed to be addressed with the degree of systematicity that the importance of the issues deserve: (1) What makes literature valuable for attention, health, mindfulness, and well-being? (2) What contribution can the study of literature make for the interdisciplinary fields known as ‘narrative medicine’, ‘salutogenesis’, and ‘happiness studies’? (3) What is the value of literature and reading for gauging what a good life could look like, i.e. for finding answers to the question of what makes a life worth living? In short: “Why is literature worth bothering with?” (Felski 2015: 5) By exploring possible interfaces between literary studies and interdisciplinary research on happiness, health and well-being, this lecture will also delineate new research areas and trajectories for literary study in the 21st century.