How I ended up with a Loony Literature Laboratory.
It all started in an ordinary college on a dreary day with a group of firemen. In fact, there were only three firemen and one firewoman, all the rest were teachers of various subjects. I was sprouting off about The Laboratory by Robert Browning. Some people hear the words ‘Victorian poetry’ and dash for the exit. I needed, therefore, to demonstrate how exciting my subject is. Luckily, people amongst the group commented that normally they would have dismissed a dusty, Victorian poem but I had made it exciting and approachable. Mission accomplished maybe, but it wasn’t that which sent me on my Frankenstein journey. It was the question “Your enthusiasm is energising, where does it come from?”
As a child, I was given a book of Shakespeare’s plays written as stories. I was totally mesmerised with characters disguising themselves in the woods in As You Like It. Midsummer Night’s Dream enchanted me when Tatiana, the Queen of the Fairies, fell in love with Bottom who had grown an asses head. I read those stories, over and over. When, as a teenager, I came to study Shakespeare, I was prepared for it. I knew the stories so the language wasn’t as difficult as it was for others who were new to The Bard.
Although many people, these days, still love Shakespeare, the Brontes and Henry James, there are those who dismiss them as boring and unapproachable. I wonder if it is because they are not given them in small, fun like chunks when they are developing their reading tastes. As I adore children’s expressions when I am telling them stories or about characters, I wondered if I could possibly switch a few of them onto great literature.
I thought I would begin with Frankenstein as it obviously has monster appeal. My idea was to take the part of the text where Frankenstein makes the monster come alive and turn it into a monologue. I thought that my fourteen year old, acting son could perform the monologues for nine to eleven year olds and then we could use it as a springboard to write something as a group.
Whilst I was thinking about a creative writing workshop to put together, I decided to read more about Mary Shelley’s (the author of Frankenstein) life. The book I wanted had to be ordered from The British Library. When it arrived I could not put it down. It was better than any page turner. I don’t want to give anything away because I think readers should discover this astonishing story for themselves. However, the fact that Mary and her husband, Percy Shelley had to run away to Italy to get free from Percy’s debtor’s filtered through into my subconscious.
I have very strong views on the power of the subconscious – I think it must be all the essays I wrote from a psychoanalytical angle as a student of Literature. I sometimes get friends emailing, especially ones working on essays and dissertations, the emails often have one sentence in them. “HELP – I’VE GOT WRITER’S BLOCK!” I always tell people that the subconscious hasn’t catalogued all the ideas or research they have shoved there. Once the subconscious knows what to send you, all the words will come tumbling out.
My subconscious sent me the comic character of Mary Shelley. There was a voice in my head which sprouted words and I could see myself in my mind’s eye using somebody else’s mannerisms and voice. I had a fictional Mary Shelley and the beginning of a play for children. All I knew was that Mary and Percy were running away from their debtors to Italy. My Frankenstein journey had begun.
- Let’s Talk About FRANKENSTEIN 1 (loonyliterature.com)
- Let’s Talk About Frankenstein (2) – Walton’s First Three Letters. (loonyliterature.com)
- My Frankenstein Journey 7 – A Creative Writing Journal (loonyliterature.com)
- Mary Shelley: Frankenstein’s mother (independent.co.uk)
- Mary Shelley (petitefeministe.wordpress.com)