From The Harvard Gazette:
The fiction writer Lauren Groff likens her artistic process to a kind of nuclear fusion, where collisions of creative energy produce narrative force.
With that as her model, it’s not surprising she found inspiration at the Radcliffe Institute, where potent interactions between fellows from disparate fields are an everyday thing. When Groff and her 2018-19 classmate Katie Bugyis had such an exchange, she put aside “The Vaster Wilds,” a novel based on early American captivity narratives, to dive into the life of an abbess from the Middle Ages.
As Groff put it in a December 2020 tweet, she was listening to Bugyis’s fellowship talk about medieval liturgy when her brain “exploded into rainbows.”
“I thought, oh my God, this is the next book,” said Groff, who raced to the front of the room when Bugyis finished. Over coffee not long after, the author peppered the historian with questions and took copious notes. Other conversations followed. Then, last summer, Groff asked Bugyis to be a historical consultant for “Matrix,” the story of Marie, a young woman exiled from the French court by Eleanor of Aquitaine and sent to a remote abbey to live out her days, but who instead revolutionizes the convent with the help of some divine inspiration. The novel was published last week.
“In reading it, there were so many things that I could see that she had gleaned from our conversations, from my presentation, that made appearances,” said Bugyis, a scholar of Christian theology, liturgical practice, and material culture — and also a big fan of Groff’s writing. “It just tickled me to no end, of course, to see that, and just the loving care that she really devoted to rendering these women in ways that I think give them life and complexity.”
This is an excerpt from "Spotted at Radcliffe: A brain exploding into rainbows," by Colleen Walsh, published in The Harvard Gazette on September 13, 2021. Read the full article.