Published Work



The Self on the Page: Theory and Practice of Creative Writing in Personal Development
edited with Fiona Sampson
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London and Philadelphia, 1996


Therapeutic Dimensions of Autobiography in Creative Writing
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London and Philadelphia, 2000
ISBN 1853027472


Writing: Self and Reflexivity
with Fiona Sampson
Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hampshire and New York, 2006
ISBN 1403918775


Transformative Learning through Creative Life Writing
Routledge, London and New York, 2013

What happens when we write about ourselves using poetic and fictional techniques? This is the question at the heart of Celia Hunt’s new book, in which she explores the effects of creative life writing on adults taking the MA in Creative Writing and Personal Development at the University of Sussex, a unique and highly successful programme of study which many have described as ‘life changing’. Drawing together ideas from psychodynamic psychotherapy, literary and learning theory, and work in the cognitive and neurosciences of the self and consciousness, Hunt argues that creative life writing undertaken in a supportive learning environment alongside opportunities for reflection has the power to transform the way people think and learn. It does this is by opening them up to a more embodied self-experience, which increases their awareness of the source of their thinking in bodily feeling and enables them to develop a more reflexive approach to learning.

Celia identifies the work of the MA as a form of transformative learning, placing it in the context of recent developments in this influential field of learning theory. She also identifies it as a form of therapeutic education arguing, contrary to those who say that this approach leads to a diminished sense of self, that it can help people to develop a stronger sense of agency, whether for writing or learning or relations with others. Topics covered include:

  • Creative writing as a tool for personal and professional development
  • The transformative benefits and challenges of creative writing as a therapeutic activity
  • The relationships between literary structures and the processes of thinking and feeling
  • Collaborative learning and the role of the group
  • The role of cognitive-emotional learning in adult education

This book will be of interest to teachers in adult, further and higher education wishing to use creative life writing as a tool for learning, as well as to health care professionals seeking arts-based techniques for use in their practice. It will also appeal to academics interested in the relationship between education and psychotherapy, and in the theory and practice of transformative learning, and to writers seeking a deeper understanding of the creative process.

Other Publications

Academic Papers

  • 'Finding a Voice - Exploring the Self: Autobiography and the Imagination in a Writing Apprenticeship' in Auto/Biography Vol. 6, 1998, pp.93-98.
  • 'Assessing Personal Writing' in Auto/Biography Vol. 9, Nos. 1-2, 2001, pp.89-94.
  • 'Creative Participation in the Essay Writing Process' (with Phyllis Creme), in The Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, Vol. 1, No. 2, 2002, pp.145-166.
  • 'Learning in a Border Country: a psychodynamic approach to teaching and research' (with Linden West) in Studies in the Education of Adults, 38, 2, 2006, pp. 160-177.
  • 'Paul John Eakin and the Psychology of English', Autobiography Studies, 23, 2008, pp.11-24 (with Margaretta Jolly)
  • 'Salvaging the Self in Adult Learning' (with Linden West), Studies in the Education of Adults, 41, 1, 2009, pp.68-82.
  • 'Therapeutic Effects of Writing Fictional Autobiography', Life Writing 7, 3, 2010, pp.231-244.

Chapters in Edited Books

  • 'Creative Writing and Problems of Identity' in Jan Campbell & Janice Harbord (Ed.), Psycho-politics and Cultural Desires, Taylor & Francis, 1998, pp.217-233.
  • 'Writing with the Voice of the Child' in C. Hunt & F. Sampson (Ed.), The Self on the Page: Theory and Practice of Creative Writing in Personal Development, Jessica Kingsley, London, 1998, pp.21-34.
  • 'Autobiography and the Psychotherapeutic Process' in C. Hunt & F. Sampson (Ed.), The Self on the Page: Theory and Practice of Creative Writing and Personal Development, Jessica Kingsley, London, 1998, pp.181-197.
  • 'Towards a Writing Therapy: Implications of Existing Practice and Theory' (with Fiona Sampson) in C. Hunt & F. Sampson (Ed.), The Self on the Page: Theory and Practice of Creative Writing and Personal Development, Jessica Kingsley, London, 1998, pp.198-210.
  • 'Recovery and Healing in Life Writing' in Encyclopedia of Life Writing, Margaretta Jolly (Ed.), Fitzroy Dearborn, London and Chicago, 2001, pp.737-739.
  • 'Psychological Problems of Writer Identity: towards a Horneyan understanding' in Duncan Barford (Ed.) The Ship of Thought: Essays on Psychoanalysis and Learning, Karnac Books, London, 2002, pp.171-195.
  • 'Reading Ourselves: Imagining the Reader in the Writing Process' in Gillie Bolton et al (Ed.) Writing Cures: An Introductory Handbook of Writing in Counselling and Therapy, Brunner Routledge, 2004, pp.35-43.
  • 'Writing and Reflexivity: Training to Facilitate Creative Writing for Personal Development', in Fiona Sampson (Ed.), Writing in Health and Social Care, Jessica Kingsley, London, 2004, pp.154-171.

Professional Articles

  • 'Autobiography and the Imagination' in Writing in Education, Winter 1995-96.
  • 'Accreditation to work with the Literary Arts in Developmental and Therapeutic Contexts' Lapidus Magazine, 2004
  • 'Creative Writing for Personal Development or the "Serious Practice of Poetry"', Lapidus Magazine, 2007
  • Quarterly column under the title 'Writing Your Self' in literary magazine Mslexia:
    • 'The Internal Gesture' Issue 26 (July 2005)
    • 'Exploring Personal Metaphors', Issue 27 (October 2005)
    • 'Bodily Sensations', Issue 28 (January 2006)
    • 'The Voice of the Child', Issue 29 (April 2006)
    • 'A Sense of Place', Issue 30 (December 2006)
    • 'The Implied Author', Issue 31 (April 2007)
    • 'Signing Off', Issue 32 (August 2007)
  • 'Exploring Career Identities through Creative Writing', NICEC Journal, January 2010

Research Interests

Celia's main research interests are in subjectivity in writing and learning processes, in particular the effects of the writing of fictional autobiography (creative life writing) on the writer's sense of self, whether these effects come by chance or by design in a personal development context.

She is also interested in how creative writing can be used as a developmental tool in adult and higher education more generally, rather than specifically within the area of creative writing, for example in helping students and academics engage more creatively with their academic writing.

Within the general area of creative writing and personal development Celia is particularly interested in the application of literary and psychological theory to the understanding of writing and learning processes, especially theory of metaphor, narrative point of view, and the author's relationship with the imagined reader.

For the past several years Celia has been engaged in a research project 'The Self in the Learning Process: Creative Writing as a Tool for Learning', funded by the British Academy and the Higher Education Academy, looking at the learning process of students taking the MA Creative Writing and Personal Development at the University of Sussex. This builds on previous research published in Therapeutic Dimensions of Autobiography in Creative Writing (2000) and 'Writing and Reflexivity: Training to facilitate creative writing for personal development' in F. Sampson (ed.) Creative Writing in Health and Social Care (2004). She is currently writing up this project in book form for publication by Routledge under the title Creative Life Writing as a Tool for Transformative Learning.

Celia has supervised four doctoral theses to completion:

  • Sophie Nicholls, 'Writing the Body: Ways in which Creative Writing can facilitate a Felt, Bodily Sense of Self' (2006)
  • Pauline Cooper, 'The Use of Creative Writing as a Therapeutic Activity for Mental Health in Occupational Therapy' (2008)
  • Michael Maltby, 'The Poetics of Experience: a First-Person Creative and Critical Exploration of Self-Experience and the Writing of Poetry' (2009)
  • Sarah Jackson, 'The Textual Skin: towards a tactile poetics' (2009)

Seven further doctorates are in progress under her supervision at the University of Sussex within the general areas of adult education and creative writing for personal and professional development.