Four writers will gather at the Robert Gill Theatre at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies (CDTPS) on January 27, 2020 from 6 to 8 pm for Novel Histories, an event organized by PhD Candidate Maria Meindl, author of The Work and Outside the Box, to share their work and talk about fiction as a way of engaging with history and memory. Novel Histories is Maria’s take on a historical project about the ways different people remember historical figures.
“The ways we consider history are just all stories, so I’m very interested in writers of historical fiction,” says Maria. “Sometimes they do so much research that their novels could be considered history texts.”
From a young age, Maria has always had a fascination with the workings of memory. “When I was raised, I was always surrounded by people who were almost living in the past, so I was always surrounded by stories,” says Maria. “I started to notice how people have different ideas of what really happened.”
In her written work, Maria bonds the allure of memory with her published stories, identifying memory as a source of inspiration. “My attention always seems to return to that power struggle on the battlefield of memory in my writing,” says Maria.
Maria’s first book, the memoir, Outside the Box, explores the process of re-remembering the past and investigating the sometimes incomplete nature of memories. In 1999, Maria undertook the process of sifting through the papers of her grandmother, the writer and radio broadcaster Mona Gould. As she sorted through stacks of poetry and written work, Maria recalled her early experiences with her grandmother. “I spent a lot of time with her when I was little, and that was the time when she was very embittered, drinking a lot, and maybe even then my parents would have been criticized for leaving me alone with her.”
After archiving and documenting 38 boxes of poems and journal entries, Maria changed her perception of the grandmother she thought she knew. “When I went through all the papers, I saw that she built her career very laboriously and that she had worked very hard,” says Maria.
Although Mona was not the most conventional grandmother, Maria came to admire her grandmother’s determination and iron constitution, qualities Maria incorporates in her writing process. “Despite her self-doubt, she had a certain trust in her creative powers and in the powers of creativity that I think made her an amazing role model,” says Maria. “She stayed with it and never abandoned her craft,”
Writing her first novel was no simple task, but when Maria framed it as a historical project, the writing process took off for her. This focus on history as a writing tool heavily inspired the themes of Novel Histories.
Maria hand selected authors and historians who will examine these themes of historical interpretation during a panel discussion at her Novel Histories event. They include Eva Stachniak, Jennifer Robson and Kerry Clare.
“Eva Stachniak is someone I really admire for her accuracy in research, and she is also a great storyteller.” Says Maria. “Jennifer Robson is a historical scholar and I thought she would be a good person to talk to because she’s using her novel writing as an “in” to history and Kerry Clare is someone I admire tremendously. She is a novelist, a blogger, and uses social media in creative ways. She’s also a champion of women’s literature and women’s writing.”
Novel Histories is more than an academic lecture; it is a chance for attendees to become inspired by new ways of understanding history and memory. “Putting it in this academic environment, I hope my colleagues at the Centre and members of the university community will have a chance to think about subjects like history and let their imagination fly,” says Maria.
For more information about Novel Histories and to RSVP to the event, visit the CDTPS website.