January 24, 2018
Seeking Inspiration from our Friends in Maine

Our own Bronwen Fetters traveled to Brunswick, Maine, last March to do some program research for Indiana Humanities' upcoming Frankenstein Weekend Retreat. Learn more about what made her experience so special and how we're adapting the model back here in Indiana.

As part of Indiana Humanities One State / One Story: Frankenstein program, we are planning a Weekend Retreat in March that will be our deepest dive into Mary Shelley’s book yet! Adults (and students aged high school and up) will have the chance to go back to school for an in-depth and fun weekend focused on all things Frankenstein.

For our inaugural retreat, we’ll be traveling to the world Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—well, actually we’ll be traveling to Greencastle, but attendees might feel like they’re in nineteenth-century Geneva at times! Shelley’s seminal novel is rich with themes, questions and conflicts for us to probe and explore, and the setting of the book lends well to the food, drink and atmosphere we will enjoy together. 

We’ll kick things off on a Friday evening with a keynote presentation from Dr. Richard Gunderman of IU Medical School, followed by a cocktail hour and dinner party inspired by the book. On Saturday, we’ll enjoy a full day of stimulating talks by renowned Frankenstein experts.

We’re super excited for this event and are indebted to the Maine Humanities Council for the idea. For the last 20 years, they have put on a winter book retreat, each year focusing on a different classic novel for the source of their exploration. We loved this program model and knew we wanted to incorporate something similar into our statewide read of Frankenstein. So last March, in the name of program research, I traveled to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME, to experience an MHC Winter Weekend for myself.

I had a marvelous time. To highlight our sister council’s exemplary humanities program model and also to pique your interest for our upcoming retreat on March 23-24, I thought I’d share my favorite parts of their retreat.

We read Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz’s masterwork Palace Walk, part of his Cairo Trilogy, which chronicles the story of one family’s life amidst Egypt’s cultural and political transition of the twentieth century. In preparation for the event, the Maine Humanities Council sent some pre-reading articles that detailed the cultural, political, and historical context of the time period. So even before I arrived in Brunswick, I was excited to dig into the text with the help of the attending scholars. Of course, a full day of in-depth talks about a classic text might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but as a former English major, I couldn’t wait to hear their insights and explore my own.

After the keynote talk on Friday evening, we enjoyed a cocktail hour and culturally authentic meal together, followed by a musical performance of traditional Egyptian music. That evening I stayed at a quaint Maine B&B to rest up and prepare for the full day of talks to come on Saturday. Those talks did not disappoint, as I learned information ranging from media representations of the famous novel to the gender dynamics present in the text.

I made a variety of new friends during the weekend, as we sat, talked and ate together, sharing our love for literature, learning and culture. I think mostly the Mainers were just amused by my perky Midwestern nature (read: hyperactive personality). I loved seeing the humanities in action as a convener and point of human connection.

Then, on my way out of the state, I stopped by the Portland Head Light to take in some quintessential Maine views. I left Maine with new thoughts spinning in my mind, not only about how Indiana Humanities could create a comparably rich experience back home but also about the themes present in Palace Walk and their relevance to our world today.  

As I’m in the middle of planning the Frankenstein Weekend Retreat, I’m looking forward to sharing this kind of unique experience with Hoosiers who love thinking, reading and talking. As in Maine’s case, we’ll plan to eat a meal inspired by the setting of the book. The sights, sounds, smells and tastes will draw us even deeper into the world of Mary Shelley, Victor Frankenstein and his monster. DePauw University’s Prindle Institute for Ethics will be a wonderful location for us to come together for fellowship, learning and fun with friends new and old. Attendees will receive a copy of the book, lots of Frankenstein swag and some supplementary reading material to provide historical and cultural context.

We can’t wait, and we hope you’ll join us! To learn more and register for the Frankenstein Weekend Retreat, please visit frankenretreat.eventbrite.com or contact Bronwen Fetters at 317.616.9103 or bfetters@indianahumanities.org.

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The post was written by Bronwen Fetters, executive assistant and program associate at Indiana Humanities. One State / One Story: Frankenstein is an Indiana Humanities program and has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and in partnership with the Indiana State Library and Indiana Center for the Book. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The scholars participate in a panel about Naguib Mahfouz's Palace Walk.
The scholars participate in a panel about Naguib Mahfouz's Palace Walk.
The menu for a
The menu for a "Dinner in Cairo."
Attendees enjoy dinner and discussion together.
Attendees enjoy dinner and discussion together.
The Daniel Bed & Breakfast in Brunswick, ME.
The Daniel Bed & Breakfast in Brunswick, ME.
The Portland Head Light.
The Portland Head Light.
Posted In: Frankenstein

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