Dr. Amy Watkin, English, is writing a historical novel about the famous playwright's marriage to Constance Wilde. Students provided background research.
Not many people know that Oscar Wilde was married.
Watkin says people generally know two things about Wilde. He was a famous playwright in the Victorian era and he was gay. His marriage to Constance Wilde tends to get forgotten.
Watkin is writing a historical fiction novel about Constance Wilde’s life, spurred by the mysteries surrounding her relationship with the playwright.
Watkin recruited two students, James “JP” Hakala ’15, St. Paul, Minn., and Jacey Mitziga ’16, Kennedy, Minn., to help her with background research this summer.
“Part of our research was finding things that don’t see the light of day usually,” Watkin says.
Watkin created a spreadsheet of information she needed. The list was extensive, including physical descriptions of people and places, newspaper articles and information on major events that occurred during Constance’s life.
From the start, Watkin says Hakala and Mitziga were dedicated to the project.
“It always helps me to have other people around who share interests in the same thing,” Watkin says.
Camped out in study room 358 in the Carl B. Ylvisaker Library with pictures of Constance taped to the walls, Hakala and Mitziga read a biography and pored over documents, organizing more than 800 letters and slowly checking items off Watkin’s list of inquiries.
“I don’t know that they ever left (the library),” she says, chuckling.
Hakala enjoyed working on the project, admitting he didn’t know Constance existed beforehand.
“She just wasn’t in my worldview when I thought about Oscar Wilde,” he says.
Watkin hopes to open people’s eyes to the complexity of Oscar and Constance Wilde’s relationship and to write a book that people will want to read. She admits that it is a daunting task to undertake.
“I think it’s exciting and scary to do something that’s outside of the academic field,” she says.
Watkin has published multiple books and essays, but this will be her first fictional work.
Watkin, Hakala and Mitziga will present on the life of Constance Wilde at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14, in the Morrie Jones Conference Center Suite A-B, Knutson Campus Center.