Tag Archives: Sarah Sayward Wood

Romantic Writers, Short Memoir–and the Dark, Romantic Ecology Element I Love So Much are all in this Online Workshop (starts January 2021)

This winter I’m leading a workshop series on Romanticism-era writers, focusing in large part on women writers (without ignoring the male writers), such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Ann Radcliffe, and Mary Shelley. Wollstonecraft is a fascinating figure who pioneered early feminism. Radcliffe was the first woman writer of gothic novels (who was so successful at it that she retired early) and her novels laid foundational ground for Victorian Gothic writers like the Brontës, and later, Daphne du Maurier, who wrote the novel, Rebecca, and even later, Shirley Jackson, who wrote “The Lottery” and The Haunting of Hill House. Radcliffe was also very keen on creating intelligent, educated heroines who showed an aptitude for botany, poetry, and languages. (Critics focus too much on her heroine’s fainting episodes and ignore the original poetry and botanical knowledge.) And we all know that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, beginning in summer of 1816, at Lake Geneva—but have you ever thought of Frankenstein as fictionalized memoir? I have. We’ll investigate this further in this unusual workshop! Update: It will begin January 2021. Visit Westbrook Adult Education’s website to register for the class.

I contemplated the lake. – Frankenstein. Mary Shelley

Some of the people in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s life. Stetson visual.

I am also excited to include Maine’s first novelist, Sarah “Sally” Sayward Wood, who is my ancestor by way of marriage to my great-great-great-great-great grandfather, General Abiel Wood, who was her husband. Wood’s first novel, Julia and the Illuminated Baron (1800) was a gothic novel. Sally Wood helped to establish the oldest women’s organization in the country, of which I am a member, the Female Charitable Society of Wiscasset, Maine. In this workshop series, I share my passion for Dark Romanticism, and for life writing, and help to guide participants through the writing process as they experiment with hybrid genres. The course content will be housed on Google Classroom (or another LMS platform) but I’ve also created a private Facebook group for the participants to provide another way to engage in group discussion. Check out a sneak preview of course content in this brief video on medieval architecture in Gothic literature, such as the Mysteries of Udolpho.

In this online workshop series, which is hosted by Westbrook Adult Education in Maine, I will guide participants through a discussion of several readings, including excerpts of the literary works of Romantic women writers, as well as a fairly in-depth read of Frankenstein. One of my questions for the group: Was Frankenstein a partially fictionalized memoir? We’ll look at elements of life writing as it shows up in the short memoirs by Wollstonecraft and Shelley–as well as examples of contemporary short memoir and flash nonfiction. I am also interested in all of the dark elements of Romanticism, otherwise known as “Dark Romanticism,” in which I see a lot of examples of what I call “dark, Romantic ecology.” I am exploring this as a writer myself, and will be highlighting how Romantic women writers shared an interest in botany, science, and geography–the building blocks of early ecology.

A scene from Mary Shelley’s novel, Mathilda. Watercolor by Leah Stetson.

Participants will have an opportunity to experiment with hybrid genres: flash nonfiction, fictionalized memoir, epistolary memoir, short memoir, and short creative nonfiction. This workshop series runs 6-8 weeks starting the third week of January 2021. The first six weeks will be a combination of reading the literary works and some self-writing experiments, which will draw inspiration from the Romantics, as well as one’s own life experiences or environment. One of the writing prompts is the lake. In order to register for this class, which starts in January 2021, please visit Westbrook Adult Education: https://westbrook.maineadulted.org/course/romanticism-writers-short-memoir-writing/

In the meantime, please feel free to check out this short preview of the course, in which I give you a feel for the course content.

A sneak preview of the course content (course starts Jan. 2021)
Sebago Lake State Park. Stetson photo.
This course starts January 2021 with Westbrook Adult Education (online).