Honors College | Session 1

Title

The Letter writing process as interpersonal communication for relational reconciliation

Presenter Information

Stella ChildressFollow

Academic Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Major

Organizational Communication

Minor

Creative Writing

List all Project Mentors & Advisor(s)

Dr. Steve Cox and Dr. Warren Edminster

Presentation Format

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Description

Do you remember that last time you sent a personal letter to someone? This paper explores two cases in which a letter correspondence was used as a stepping stone to facilitate reconciliation between two people in two memoirs: The Railway Man and South of Forgiveness. The foundation is set with a literature review exploring the history of familiar letters, discussing their evolution in the 21st century, differentiating a private message versus a public message, and examining how format influences meaning. In the first, Eric Lomax, an ex-prisoner of war and his torturer, Takashi Nagese correspond for two years and reconcile in Thailand. In the second, Thordis Elva, a victim of rape and the rape perpetrator, Tom Stranger, reconcile after an 8-year correspondence in South Africa. From their stories there are 8 characteristics of the familiar letter that make it an effective communication in the reconciliation process. The letters have several goals: a way for the victim to relinquish power back, a concrete documentation and gathering of information, and an ability to distance subjects from the situation and build a relationship. In each case the point of reconciliation happens face to face, but without the letters this face to face meeting would have never happened. In conclusion, the familiar letter is an important interpersonal form of written communication that can bring healing, forgiveness and reconciliation between people, groups, and nations.

Spring Scholars Week 2018 Event

Honors College Senior Thesis Presentation

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The Letter writing process as interpersonal communication for relational reconciliation

Do you remember that last time you sent a personal letter to someone? This paper explores two cases in which a letter correspondence was used as a stepping stone to facilitate reconciliation between two people in two memoirs: The Railway Man and South of Forgiveness. The foundation is set with a literature review exploring the history of familiar letters, discussing their evolution in the 21st century, differentiating a private message versus a public message, and examining how format influences meaning. In the first, Eric Lomax, an ex-prisoner of war and his torturer, Takashi Nagese correspond for two years and reconcile in Thailand. In the second, Thordis Elva, a victim of rape and the rape perpetrator, Tom Stranger, reconcile after an 8-year correspondence in South Africa. From their stories there are 8 characteristics of the familiar letter that make it an effective communication in the reconciliation process. The letters have several goals: a way for the victim to relinquish power back, a concrete documentation and gathering of information, and an ability to distance subjects from the situation and build a relationship. In each case the point of reconciliation happens face to face, but without the letters this face to face meeting would have never happened. In conclusion, the familiar letter is an important interpersonal form of written communication that can bring healing, forgiveness and reconciliation between people, groups, and nations.