By Dina Greenberg
Over the course of two short weeks, I wrote “Guinevere Tries a New Kind of In-vitro” in response to a series of paintings by Elisabeth Chant (1865-1947). Chant’s artwork—in particular, the ghostly watercolor triptych shown here—struck me as a remarkably feminist treatment of Arthurian legend.
My flash fiction response became part of an exhibition, entitled She Tells a Story, at the Cameron Art Museum (CAM) in Wilmington, NC (March 19 – September 11, 2016). Conceived by CAM curator Holly Tripman, the exhibition brought together female visual artists, whose works reside in the museum’s permanent collection, with female writers living and working in Wilmington.
I was intrigued to learn that British-born Elizabeth Chant was considered quite eccentric and that in 1917 relatives committed her first to the Minnesota Sanitarium and then to a psychiatric hospital in Rochester, NY. Anne Brennan, Chant’s biographer and CAM director, speculated, “Her family might have grown concerned with her increasing focus on the occult, on Arthurian legend, Druid lore, and the Egyptian pantheon.”
It’s difficult to say which elements drew me to interpret Chant’s images so decisively, though the concept for the story, as well as the writing, unfolded organically and at an unusually rapid pace. From the start, I knew that Guinevere would be my protagonist and I knew that she possessed transformative power. I pushed a bit beyond Marion Zimmer Bradley’s feminist treatment of Guinevere in The Mists of Avalon. As a result, the matriarchal society that my Guinevere envisions has the capacity to render men irrelevant—a clear shot to the bow of even the most modern patriarchy, for certain.
Dina Greenberg’s flash fiction, “Guinevere Tries a New Kind of In-vitro,” appears in TLR’s issue 8.