Victor Frankenstein, Absentee God

Frankenstein and CreatureSo the Week 4 reading assignment for my online class on Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World was Mary Wollstonecraft’s Frankenstein, or The New Prometheus.

I really got cranking on the reading notes this week; I had 17 letter-size pages!  (For everyone but Americans: that’s about A4 format.)  While I don’t consider the book to be entertainment reading, it certainly packs a lot of ideas and symbols, so much that we take away from it different parts.

I have trouble with the notion that it falls in the science fiction genre.  There is so little effort at giving any scientific explanation for the reanimation, and few other allusions to science (though many to Knowledge) that it constitutes more trappings than substance.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I think focusing on the knowledge-Man-was-not-ready-for is missing a lot of the picture.

Then again, the picture contains so many elements that it’s hard to do otherwise.  Here is my 300-word essay on Frankenstein as a sly exploration of theodicy.  Continue reading “Victor Frankenstein, Absentee God”

Pop Culture Frankenstein

FrankensteinTo go with my online class Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World, I started a series of posts listing companion materials in pop culture, preferably ones that are a little forgotten, have not received the attention I think they deserve, or take an unusual angle.  All the better if they are available online, double-plus for free.

These are the ones I propose to accompany Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, Or: The New Prometheus.

  • I  was nagged by the parallel with George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (My Fair Lady on the stage and in a movie).  Turns out I was not the only one: John H. Lienhard has some related thoughts in his paper Frankenstein, Faust and Pygmalion, as did Jamie S. Rich in a review of the 1938 movie “Pygmalion”.
  • The first Frankenstein movie ever made, the 1910 silent 16-minute production by Edison Studios.
  • The 1931 classic movie with Boris Karloff, directed by James Whale, on Vimeo (with Spanish subtitles).
  • This YouTube playlist has 37 Frankenstein clips including the 13-part audiobook, the 1910 silent movie, the 1932 (13 episodes), 1947 (2 episodes) and 1955 (2 episodes) radio drama versions, and more.
  • Librivox offers five audiobook versions, all free, of Frankenstein.
  • Here is a fun one: the National Institute of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has an online exhibit and lesson plans on Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature as part of its higher education section on the history of medicine.
  • There’s an app for that: Frankenstein for iPad, from Inkle.
  • Kate Beaton’s webcomic Hark, a Vagrant on Mary Shelley.
  • Less pop culture, mostly scholarly: over 200 articles on the topic of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein!  Some are written by science fiction authors, like Brian Aldiss.
  • Works from and on Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley on
Aldini, 1804
Aldini, Giovanni. Essai théorique et expérimental sur le galvanisme; avec une série d’expériences faites en présence des commissaires de l’Institut national de France, et en divers amphithéatres anatomiques de Londres. Vol. 1, plate 4. Paris, Fournier, 1804.