b. August 30, 1797 d. February 1, 1851 1816 — Begins writing Frankenstein 1818 — Frankenstein published anonymously 1831 — Third edition of Frankenstein published
1823 1910 1930 1931 1935 1957 1
Edison Studios releases a 16-minute silent ﬁlm version of Frankenstein. Universal Studios releases Bride of Frankenstein, starring Horror Elsa Lanchester as the Young F bride and Mary Shelley. directed Brooks Universal Studios releases Gene W it lives! Frankenstein, directed by James Whale and release The play Presumption; or starring Colin Clive as Victor Frankenstein the Fate of Frankenstein and Boris Karloff as the monster. The R by Richard Brinsley Show Peake debuts containing Peggy Webling’s trans the line “It lives!,” greatly stage adaptation Hammer Studios releases The Curse of Fran inﬂuencing later of Frankenstein Frankenstein, establishing their unique Dr. F depictions of monsters. opens in London. brand of technicolor Gothic that pushes a “sw horror cinema into a new phase. from Tran A Companion to Frankenstein
Table of Contents
A Welcome to Frankenstein . . . 4 Opening Statements . . . 5 Diversity, Difference, Otherness . . . 7 Frankenstein: A Timeline . . . 8 Biographies . . . 10 Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the Birth of the Modern Monstrous . . . 12 Matters of Life and Death: Scientiﬁc Ethics in Frankenstein . . . 14 Diverse Adaptations of Frankenstein . . . 16 Frankenstein, Technology, and the Industrial Revolution . . . 18 Whose Monster is the More Probable Language Learner? . . . 20 NEA Big Read . . . 22
A Companion to Frankenstein was created by the Cardinal Stage Company Education Committee with assistance from Monroe County Public Library.
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A Companion to Frankenstein — 3 Dear Friends and Supporters, It was 10 years ago this fall that I proposed to College faculty a themed series of events over the course of a semester that would examine a complex issue and investigate it through the many disciplines represented in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU. My notion was that THEMESTER would be comprised of public presentations by scholars, artists, and activists, a mini-curriculum of theme-related courses, and the staging of thematic exhibitions and artistic productions. My hope was that not only students, but also faculty and staff, would be drawn into exploring challenging issues from the many doors that THEMESTER opened and would emerge with a keener understanding of the complicated issues of our time. The tongue-twisting name of THEMESTER took hold, and now the College is celebrating its ninth year of THEMESTER. I also imagined that THEMESTER might extend beyond the College, drawing interest from the larger Bloomington community. I have long believed that the dramatic and visual arts enable us to probe deeply and gain subtle and powerful insights into the human experience while bringing enrichment and enlightenment to people of all monsters, Nick Dear’s Creature and this Cardinal ages and backgrounds. This partnership between production achieve that which is most important the College and Cardinal reminds us that theatre, to the mission of THEMESTER – to reveal hard done well and done right, has the power to build truths and explore uncomfortable realities. Cardinal bridges between the town and the gown. Stage’s production gets to the heart of the dilemma of humanity. After all, as De Lacey says “No Our ﬁrst THEMESTER in 2009 was focused on man is a monster!” and yet every day we create Evolution and that year the College began our monsters of others and discard them as humans. now long-standing partnership with Cardinal Maybe the Creature has something to tell us. Stage with its production of Inherit the Wind. This year, the THEMESTER theme is Diversity I am delighted to be a member of the Cardinal - Difference - Otherness. To explore that theme, Stage Company Board of Directors, and Cardinal presents a new adaptation by Nick Dear, humbly pleased that I was able to play a role in directed by Cardinal founder Randy White, of forging the partnership between THEMESTER the familiar tale of FRANKENSTEIN. The focus and Cardinal. Long may it thrive! of the 19th-century novel by Mary Shelley was on modern science and what its misuse might mean for humanity, but Shelley also left room for her Jean Robinson readers to consider those who turned difference into Cardinal Stage Company Board member ugliness, and otherness into violence. Nick Dear’s play focuses on the monster as the Other, and in Former Associate Executive Dean of an era of public criticism of people who are seen the College of Arts and Science by some as “different” and “violent”, the message Professor Emeritus, Indiana University of FRANKENSTEIN is even more compelling than it was when Shelley wrote. By exposing audiences to the very real and very human reactions to
A Companion to Frankenstein — 4 Opening Statements by Jane D. McLeod Provost and Chair, Sociology, Indiana University Chair of faculty advisory committee of Themester 2017: Diversity, Difference, Otherness
How do people come to be seen as other? How is otherness maintained politically and through social interactions? How is otherness represented in literature, ﬁlm, and mass media? What are its implications for individual well-being and societal functioning? The 2017 Themester is dedicated to exploring how people are deﬁned and understood through concepts of diversity, difference, and otherness. Each of these terms raises perplexing cultural and social issues, and our programming is designed to explore their nuances and connotations.
Our engagement with the concept gether people with different talents, experiences, and feelings associated of otherness draws from the full skills, and perspectives. Our lives with those differences. This is not complement of the liberal arts— are enriched by unfamiliar ideas easy to do; building and sustaining arts, humanities, social sciences, and new forms of artistic expres- diverse communities requires ac- and natural sciences—and from sion, even when they make us feel tive engagement and a willingness their wide-ranging subject mat- unsettled or uncomfortable. Yet so- to learn from people and ideas dif- ter—science ﬁction and dystopian cial science research demonstrates ferent from our own. literature (e.g., the Divergent series, that recognition of difference eas- Perhaps that is why many contem- The Hunger Games); social histories ily yields to differing evaluations. porary social challenges center on of racialized conﬂict (e.g., apart- Without conscious intent, we eval- concepts of difference and diversi- heid in South Africa and the Civil uate people and ideas that are famil- ty. Changing national demograph- Rights movement in the US); and iar more positively than those that ics have provoked heated debates research on environmental change are unfamiliar. Difference has the about immigration, citizenship, and invasive species, among others. potential to divide as well as unite. and basic human rights. Colleges Themester events and activities, In the abstract and in reality, di- and universities have struggled such as the performance you will versity is more complex. Diversity to recruit and retain faculty and see of Frankenstein, aim to promote typically carries a positive conno- students from traditionally under- dialogue about the many forms of tation; it implies openness, accep- represented groups even as critics “otherness” we encounter, about tance, tolerance, inclusion. Diversi- cast their efforts as unfair. Global the challenges and opportunities of ty also invokes notions of identity: climate change has led to declines living in a diverse society, and about our memberships in social groups in native biodiversity, prompting how we can transcend differences (deﬁned, for example, by race/eth- questions about how best to balance to build effective local, national, and nicity, gender, social status, sexual human activity with the well-being global communities. orientation) and the meanings we of the communities and non-hu- Difference, in and of itself, is a neu- derive from those memberships. man species that are at risk. Even as tral, descriptive concept—things are Because of its association with we confront these challenges, our similar or different and difference identity, diversity asks more of us efforts to develop effective respons- is neither good nor bad. Difference than merely accepting or tolerating es have been stymied by increasing yields clear beneﬁts. Creative solu- difference. It asks also that we wel- political polarization, decreasing tions emerge when we bring to- come and encourage the identities, empathy, and the entrenchment
A Companion to Frankenstein — 5 of difference. Transcending these divides requires that we confront difﬁcult questions about how we understand and represent differ- ence, how categories of difference are constructed and maintained, how notions of difference are used to support and undermine com- munities, and how individuals and collectives resist binary demarca- tions of the self vs. “other.” The 2017 Themester faculty advisors pro- posed the theme of diversity, dif- ference, and otherness back in 2015 because we believe that investigat- ing these concepts will help prepare students to make a positive contri- bution to our increasingly multi- cultural, multiethnic, multinational world, and to the future of a planet that is rapidly exceeding its capacity to sustain human life. What does Frankenstein contribute Bride of Frankenstein. Dir. James Whale. Universal Pictures, 1935. Film poster. to our investigation of these con- cepts? Difference and otherness Victor Frankenstein builds a Creature who is not human. Is it reverberate through every scene inevitable that the Creature would be seen as different? How is the of the play. Victor Frankenstein Creature similar to the people he encounters? How is he different? literally creates an “other,” a Crea- ture different from human. How- Victor Frankenstein rejects the Creature soon after the Creature ever, the process of becoming “oth- emerges. Why does Frankenstein reject the Creature? How do you think er” does not end with this creation Frankenstein felt? Can you empathize with Frankenstein’s position? but carries through the play as the How do you think you would respond if you met the Creature? Creature’s attempts to become part of human society are met with re- jection and contempt. Cast out by What do other people do or say that contributes to the his creator, greeted with disgust and Creature’s status as “other”? What, if anything, could the horror, rebuffed by the companion Creature have done to resist being seen as different? he most seeks, the Creature is over- come with anger, hate, and a quest Have you witnessed “othering” behaviors at school, work, for revenge. While no such “crea- or in other settings? How are those behaviors similar to ture” exists in our world, the Crea- or different from what the Creature encounters? ture’s struggles for acceptance and his growing bitterness in the face of What effect does rejection have on the Creature? What failure resonate with the experienc- emotions does he experience? When he experiences es of many people who live on the kindness and acceptance, how does he respond? margins of society. As you watch this performance, I The futures of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature are encourage you to consider what bound inextricably. What does their shared fate tell us you can learn from the Creature’s about the relationship between people who hold the power journey about your own life and the to create “others” and those who are “othered”? communities to which you belong. Here are a few questions to help Thank you for attending this Cardinal Stage production of Frankenstein. you on your way: The Themester committee welcomes your feedback on the play and on the broader themes of diversity, difference, and otherness. Submit your com- ments or send your answers to the questions above to [email protected]
A Companion to Frankenstein — 6 Heather Reynolds Associate Professor of Biology Indiana University
For ecologists, engaging with diversity, difference, and otherness is all in a day’s work. Ecological systems exhibit enormous diversity, complexity, and contingency, with thousands of genetically Phoebe Wolfskill Sarah Osterhoudt and phenotypically (phenotype Assistant Professor of Assistant Professor refers to an organism’s observable African American and of Anthropology characteristics) heterogeneous species engaging in myriad African Diaspora Studies Indiana University interactions with one another and Indiana University with constantly changing physical When thinking of diversity in and chemical environments. Scholar and activist W. E. B. Du connection with the environment, Ecosystems may thus be likened to Bois wrote, “Work, culture, liberty, people often think of the variety snowﬂakes, with no two quite alike. - all these we need, not singly of plants and animals found What are the secrets of coexistence but together, not successively but in faraway places - especially of different species? How and why together…” Du Bois positioned charismatic symbols of biological do patterns of genetic, species, and cultural and racial diversity – diversity such as giant pandas, habitat diversity change over space when aligned with the goal of majestic lions, or towering redwood and time, and how do such patterns racial equality – as essential to trees. This is especially true with affect the functioning and stability national character and inﬂuence. parks and protected areas, which of ecosystems? Why do some The discipline of African American are popularly imagined as places exotic species integrate smoothly Studies abides by this fundamental where nature is allowed to thrive into new communities, and others belief in the recognition and unencumbered by humans. As a become invasive? Questions like inherent value of racial diversity, cultural anthropologist, I seek to these provide an endless source while underscoring that diversity expand ideas of environmental of fascination for ecologists, and is meaningless if only certain voices diversity, seeing places such exploring answers engages us with are heard. As a professor of African as parks not only as places of the mystery and beauty of nature American and African Diaspora biological diversity, but also as while assisting humanity’s ability to Studies with a PhD in art history, I places that contain a diversity of live in harmony as members of the position racial diversity as a primary cultural stories. For some, a forest biosphere. Excitingly, subﬁelds such point of study and conversation, may represent a pristine place in as urban ecology are challenging considering the ways in which need of protection. For others, entrenched views of nature as visual representations of human this same forest represents a long “other” than human, helping to beings (as raced bodies) articulate history of cultural interaction and reimagine the city (perhaps the ideas about self and identity, social care, a place where their ancestors quintessential antithesis of nature). community, socioeconomic class, lived or where they work to Our “biodiverse-cities” of the future and relationships of power. Artists secure their family’s livelihood. can be cleaner, greener, healthier of the African Diaspora have used Which ideas of diversity become places where diverse communities visual imagery to reﬂect on racial empowered, and which become of interacting plants, animals, identity and to meditate on the silenced? Overall, by expanding our and microbes supply food, clean world around them. These rich ideas of environmental diversity water and air, energy, and spiritual and variable artistic expressions to include cultural realms, we can renewal, vastly increasing the ultimately offer contemplations on better appreciate all the factors that sustainability and resiliency of our what it means to be human. contribute in creating diverse - and human-built environments. beautiful - landscapes.
A Companion to Frankenstein — 7 Frankenstein: A Timeline by Rebecca Baumann Head of Public Services, the Lilly Library, Indiana University
August 30, 1797 May 1816 1819 Mary Godwin (who will later, at Mary Godwin, Percy Shelley, and Mary gives birth to her marriage, change her name to Claire Clairmont leave England fourth (and only surviving) Mary Shelley) is born. Her father, to meet Claire’s lover, Lord Byron, child, Percy Florence. William Godwin, is a journalist, in Geneva. Byron has already 1823 novelist and philosopher, famous achieved fame for his poetry and The play Presumption; or the Fate for his radical, anarchist politics. notoriety for his love affairs. They of Frankenstein by Richard Brinsley Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, are joined at the Villa Diodati in Peake debuts. Mary Shelley is also a novelist and philosopher, Switzerland by Byron’s personal and her father attend one of its best known for her feminist physician, John Polidori. performances. The monster is manifesto, A Vindication of the June 1816 depicted as a mute, blue-skinned Rights of Woman (1792). Mary Inspired by their reading of hobgoblin who pantomimes along Wollstonecraft dies ten days after ghost stories, Byron proposes to various musical numbers. the birth of her daughter. Mary that the members of the group The play includes the line “It Godwin is raised and educated at Villa Diodati each write their lives!” and greatly inﬂuences by her father, who remarries own ghost story. Intrigued by later depictions of the monster. when she is four years old. discussions of the principle of life 1831 June 1812 and experiments in galvanism (the The third edition of Frankenstein Mary Godwin meets the poet stimulation of muscles by electric is published. This one-volume Percy Bysshe Shelley, who is current), Mary has a waking dream popular edition is heavily already married to Harriet of a young scientist animating a revised by Mary Shelley with Westbrook. Percy Shelley is an body. The next morning, Mary a new preface and toned- admirer of William Godwin’s begins writing the story that will down political radicalism. The political philosophy. become Frankenstein. The only 1831 edition of the novel is the other story to come from Byron’s July 1814 one that is most commonly challenge is Polidori’s The Vampyre Percy Shelley abandons his reprinted and read today. (published in 1819 and based on pregnant wife to elope with a fragment penned by Byron). 1819-1851 Mary Godwin. They bring Mary’s Mary Shelley continues to write sixteen-year-old stepsister Claire December 1816 and publish, but none of her work Clairmont with them as they Percy’s pregnant wife Harriet achieves the fame of Frankenstein. travel around Europe. When Mary commits suicide. Mary and Percy Other novels include the post- returns, she is destitute, pregnant, are married later that month, apocalyptic science ﬁction novel and faced with a very angry father. and she becomes Mary Shelley. The Last Man (1826) and the The child is born prematurely 1817 historical novel The Fortunes and dies in February of 1815. Mary completes Frankenstein. of Perkin Warbuck (1830). January 1816 In September, her daughter February 1, 1851 Mary Godwin gives birth Clara is born. Mary Shelley dies of a to a son, William. 1818 brain tumor at age 53. Frankenstein is published in a March 1910 three-volume edition. The novel Edison Studios releases a 16-minute is issued anonymously with a silent ﬁlm version of Frankenstein. preface by Percy Shelley, and In this version of the story, the most reviewers assume that monster is transformed from a real Percy is the author. The baby creature into a reﬂection in the Clara dies. Mary and Percy’s son mirror (of Victor Frankenstein), William also dies this year. which fades away when Victor’s better nature wins out.
A Companion to Frankenstein — 8 February 1930 May 1957 November 1986 Peggy Webling’s stage adaptation England’s Hammer Studios releases Gothic, directed by Ken Russell, of Frankenstein opens in London. The Curse of Frankenstein, their ﬁrst provides a ﬁlm version of the It becomes the basis for the color horror ﬁlm. Along with 1958’s conception of Frankenstein and 1931 Universal Studios ﬁlm. The Dracula, it establishes Hammer’s the summer Mary Shelley spent play also names the monster unique brand of technicolor Gothic with Percy Shelley, Byron, “Frankenstein,” an error which that pushes horror cinema into Claire Clairmont, and Polidori. has persisted throughout a new phase, punctuating classic November 1994 the monster’s subsequent Victorian horror with sex and gore. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, appearances in popular culture. 1964-1966 directed by Kenneth Branagh, November 1931 Fred Gwynne plays Herman is released. The ﬁlm attempts to Universal Studios releases Munster, whose appearance is return the story to Shelley’s vision, Frankenstein, directed by James based on Frankenstein’s monster, in making the monster (played by Whale and starring Colin Clive the American sitcom The Munsters. Robert De Niro) a misunderstood as Victor Frankenstein and Boris The series’ premise is that a family and sympathetic ﬁgure rather Karloff as the monster. The make- of monsters are kind, hardworking, than an inarticulate brute. up by Jack Pierce and Karloff’s middle-class Americans. September 1997 distinctive shambling walk and March 1971 “Some Assembly Required,” mournful groans become perhaps General Mills introduces two a Frankenstein-inspired the most iconic and memorable monster-themed breakfast cereals: episode of Buffy the Vampire iteration of the monster. Count Chocula and Franken Berry. Slayer, airs on television. April 1935 1973 November 1997 Universal Studios releases Bride Brian Aldiss publishes Billion “The Post-Modern Prometheus,” of Frankenstein, directed by James Year Spree: The True History of an episode of The X-Files inspired Whale and starring Boris Karloff Science Fiction, which positions by Mary Shelley’s novel and James as the monster and Elsa Lanchester Frankenstein as the ﬁrst science Whale’s ﬁlms, airs on television. as the bride. She also plays ﬁction novel. Aldiss’s claim is still Mary Shelley in the ﬁlm’s frame January 1998 disputed, but there can be little narrative, which tells the story of Gods and Monsters, a ﬁlm question that a novel published Frankenstein’s conception in 1816. telling the story of director by a pregnant teenaged girl in James Whale (played by Ian 1939-1948 1818 is one of the foundational McKellen) is released. Frankenstein’s monster texts of the modern-day genres continues to appear in Universal of horror and science ﬁction. February 2011 horror ﬁlms, including Son of Nick Dear’s Frankenstein, directed December 1974 Frankenstein (1939), Karloff’s last by Danny Boyle, premieres Horror comedy Young Frankenstein, appearance as the monster. Lon at the National Theatre in directed by Mel Brooks and Chaney Jr. takes over the role in London. The play stars Benedict starring Gene Wilder, is released. subsequent entries in the series. Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee August 1975 Miller, who take turns playing December 1940 The Rocky Horror Picture Show Victor Frankenstein and the “New Adventures of Frankenstein” is released, transforming Victor creature on alternate nights. by Richard “Dick” Briefer debuts Frankenstein into Dr. Frank- in Prize Comics. Considered to be 2014-2016 N-Furter, a “sweet transvestite the ﬁrst American horror comic, Victor Frankenstein, the monster, from transsexual Transylvania” the series is at its onset heavily and the bride are main characters and continuing the long inﬂuenced by the Universal Studios in Showtime’s series Penny tradition of Frankenstein as ﬁlms. The series eventually falls Dreadful, which reimagines several a transgressive narrative. prey to the censorious Comic Code nineteenth-century horror classics. Authority instituted in 1954. 2017 Universal launches its “Dark Universe,” a reboot of their classic monster franchise, with The Mummy. Bride of Frankenstein is scheduled for release in 2019.
A Companion to Frankenstein — 9 Mary Shelley It’s difﬁcult to condense the life of Mary Shelley, so let’s start with the bare facts: Mary Godwin was born in 1797. In 1814, she left home for Europe in the company of her lover, the poet Percy Shelley. They were married in 1816. That summer she began work on her ﬁrst novel, Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus, which she published anonymously in 1818. When her husband drowned off the coast of Italy in 1822, she re- turned to England, where she edited and published his poetry, as well as writing and publishing novels, essays and short stories of her own. She died in 1851 at the age of 53. Now let’s scratch the surface a little… Mary’s mother, one of the most inﬂuential feminists of the 18th centu- ry, died ten days after giving birth to her. Her father raised her to live an expressive, freethinking life that was violently at odds with con- temporary cultural norms. As a child, she was allowed to sit up late and join in conversation with many of the progressive thinkers of the day.
A portrait of Mary Shelley. Painted by Richard Mary was 16 years old when she left home with Percy. They were pas- Rothwell. Royal Academy of Arts, London. 1840. sionately in love, struggling to break free from the restrictions placed upon them by society. Despite teaching his daughter that marriage was a form of slavery for women, Mary’s father virtually disowned Nick Dear her for running away with the wild young poet. Nick Dear was born in Portsmouth, En- Although nearly penniless at the time, they travelled throughout the gland in 1955 and received his B.A. in continent. When they returned, Mary was pregnant with her ﬁrst comparative European Literature from child, which she lost during a premature birth. In 1816, after the death the University of Essex in 1977. His best of Percy Shelley’s ﬁrst wife by suicide, they married and once more left known plays are The Art of Success (1986), England for Europe. about the life of the 18th-century artist William Hogarth, and Frankenstein (2011). It was during the famous “haunted summer” of 1816, while living on He wrote the television screenplays for Lake Geneva in Switzerland with her husband, her stepsister Claire Jane Austen’s Persuasion, which won and the poet Lord Byron, that Mary began work on the novel Franken- a BAFTA award and was subsequently stein. Upon its anonymous publication in 1818, the book was well-re- screened in cinemas around the world, viewed, and immediately popular. While still a young woman, Mary and Agatha Christie’s Poirot. saw it produced as a play that drove members of the audience to scream in terror. When asked about adapting Mary Shelley’s novel for the stage, Mr. Dear Percy Shelley drowned in a storm at sea in 1822, leaving a nearly des- responded that, “It still has wonderful titute Mary alone in Italy, with their only surviving child, Percy Flor- resonance: whereas Jane Austen looks ence. She was 24 years old. back over the previous century, manners By this point in her life, in addition to losing her husband, Mary had and marriage, Mary Shelley – only about lost three children to common childhood illnesses of the day. For run- 20 years younger – looks forward to the ning away with Percy she had faced ostracism not only from English coming century, the machine age, the society, but from her father and many of her friends as well. She re- death of God, the humanist revolution. turned to England, and with the help of friends began to support her- And the moral questions she airs – self as a writer. She dedicated herself to saving her dead husband’s leg- about parental responsibility, scientiﬁc acy, editing and publishing his poetry and even inserting biographical progress, difference and otherness, what elements that were considered controversial at the time. it means to be human – will I hope feed into an evening in the theatre which She is justiﬁably regarded as one of the earliest creators of the both sci- is characterized more by questing ence ﬁction and the gothic novel. Like other English Romantic writers, intelligence than by creepy thrills.” she mixed radical politics and feminism with artistic expression. Fran- kenstein, like many of her works, expresses the danger and loneliness Nick Dear currently resides with his wife that awaits anyone willing to challenge the established order. And like in London. all great art, it raises more questions than it answers.
A Companion to Frankenstein — 10 ESSAYS
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the Birth of the Modern Monstrous by Professor Linda Charnes Department of English, Indiana University
Matters of Life and Death: Scientiﬁc Ethics in Frankenstein by Associate Professor Lisa Sideris and Jacob Boss, doctoral student Religious Studies, Indiana University
Diverse Adaptations of Frankenstein by Associate Professor Monique Morgan and Provost Professor Stephen Watt Department of English, Indiana University
Frankenstein, Technology, and the Industrial Revolution by Associate Professor Monique Morgan Department of English, Indiana University
Whose Monster is the More Probable Language Learner? by Professor Emeritus Phil Connell Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Indiana Univeristy
A Companion to Frankenstein — 11 Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the Birth of the Modern Monstrous by Professor Linda Charnes Department of English, Indiana University
Names have tremendous pow- It is certain that most often the time Shelley published her mas- er. Proper names afﬁliate us with these monstrous and marvel- terpiece, modern laboratories exist- families, genders, cultures, ethnic- ous creatures proceed from ed in England and Europe, complete ities, and society, while descriptive the judgement of God, who with medical anatomy theaters. names can be used to estrange us, permits fathers and mothers What makes Victor Frankenstein as in the “fat kid,” the “queer,” the to produce such abominations the “modern Prometheus” is his “freak,” the “loser.” But no name has from the disorder they make feverish compulsion to create the more power to exclude someone in copulation, like brutish ﬂame of life in a laboratory, solely entirely from human society than beasts, in which their appetite through his own efforts, bypassing the “monster.” Derived from two guides them, without respect- every known law of nature, biology, Latin words, monstrare (to show or ing the time, or other laws and reproduction. He wants no less demonstrate) and monere (to warn ordained by God and Nature. than to re-animate lifeless matter. or admonish), the word “monster” The human body was understood Although Victor’s creature is combines the etymological history to bear legible marks of moral pre- stitched together from body parts of both. Consequently, something or dispositions. Anyone unfortunate pillaged from ﬁlthy graveyards, the someone we call a “monster” visibly, enough to suffer a severe birth de- cliché of the lumbering zombie (the through embodiment, appearance fect or abnormality, even a large popular culture legacy of the novel) or behavior, is a sign or wonder in and unusual birthmark, was at risk could not be more different from the world -- an omen that demands of being branded a monster. Even what Shelley actually wrote. Vic- deciphering. within this broadly construed no- tor is horriﬁed when the Creature We tend to think of monsters as be- tion of the monstrous, monsters opens his eyes: “His limbs were in ing horriﬁcally ugly and “unnatural.” were still mostly creatures who proportion and I had selected his To see what makes Mary Shelley’s were born, sometimes by the cou- features as beautiful. Beautiful!— Frankenstein such a groundbreaking pling of the gods or demons with Great God!” The allegory is clear novel, we must comprehend how mortals (as with Grendel in Beowulf here. Victor is unprepared for the her representation of monstrosity or Caliban in the Tempest). Paré’s whole Creature being greater (or partakes of and diverges from the inclusion of both fathers and moth- uglier) than the sum of its parts. long history that precedes it. The ers in a process of birth means that Worse, as he admits, the instant his Medieval and Renaissance Euro- however “unnatural” a creature experiment is successful he loses pean belief in monsters was insep- might look, it still had a literal um- all interest in the science he’s pur- arable from theology. Monsters bilicus to nature’s processes. sued with monomania for the past were evidence of God’s displeasure, two years. He ﬂees the Being he has In 1818, Mary Shelley’s famous and deformed or malformed bodies created, leaving it defenseless, alone novel Frankenstein changed all that wore visible signs of this condem- and unguided. That the Creature forever. The subtitle, “the Modern nation. As the sixteenth-century on his table looks hideous is indis- Prometheus,” refers to the legend- French surgeon Ambroise Paré putable. But that he is a “monster” ary mortal who stole ﬁre from the wrote: is entirely open to challenge. From gods and shared it with mankind, a the moment the Creature awakens, myth that punishes the earliest hu- the reader is transported into the man aspiration to become godlike. realm of moral monstrosity, a fail- Prometheus wasn’t a scientist, and ure of human duty that we must lay he’s certainly not modern. But by squarely at Victor’s feet.
A Companion to Frankenstein — 12 With Shelley’s novel, we make a ter. The novel portrays a scientist fellow-feeling in countering indus- modern turn to monstrousness re- obsessed with usurping the func- trial and instrumental forces that siding less on the body and more tions of an always feminized nature, dehumanize everyone, from rich in the soul and behavior. After all, and metaphors of rape subtend the to poor? At bottom, Mary Shelley Frankenstein precedes Oscar Wil- narrative, gendering the refusal to takes on one of Shakespeare’s most de’s Dorian Gray, Robert Louis Ste- respect the boundaries either of plaintive questions, posed over two venson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, bodies or of ethical social life. With centuries earlier by a despondent even Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Moral this creation story, Shelley breaks King Lear about his daughters: monsters will become even more the umbilicus to God and nature “Is there any cause in Nature that fearsome than those who wear de- and tethers the monstrous instead makes these hard hearts?” viance on their bodies (the famous to the hubris of modern scientiﬁc Mary Shelley had read Shake- Victorian ﬁgure “the Elephant man” masculinity. speare’s plays, where the “mon- is a gentle and loving soul despite a Perhaps the most innovative pow- strous” almost always appears in disease that makes him grotesque). er of Shelley’s vision of the mon- human form and character. She For Shelley, monstrosity appears in strous is how it arises expressly had read John Milton’s epic poem the cruelties of apparently “normal” out of the dynamics of relationship. Paradise Lost, wherein Satanic evil people. Victor’s abandonment of Which brings us back to names. consists of the absolute enclosure the Being he has brought to life is The Creature in the novel is never of narcissism. Never having met as complete as his self-absorption. given a proper name. Instead he is her own mother -- the famous ﬁrst Wallowing in his own distress, his relentlessly tagged, by Victor in his feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who disavowal of the Creature leads to journals, as “the Fiend,” “the mon- died giving birth to Mary -- the the death of his little brother, Wil- ster,” “the Demon,” “the Devil.” Yet young author had her own invest- liam, as well as an adopted family Frankenstein is an epistolary novel, ment in the importance of bonds friend, Justine, who will wrongly composed of letters from different between people. For the eighteen- be convicted of, and hung for, Wil- characters, including an extensive year-old Shelley, the monstrous liam’s murder. We cannot attri- narrative from the Creature him- inhered in cruelty, irresponsibility, bute Victor’s behavior to how he self. The larger narrator function the withholding of love, exclusion, was raised, as Shelley takes pains belongs to ship’s Captain Walton, and scapegoating. Arguably the ﬁrst to show the reader Victor’s idyl- whose letters to his sister, Mrs. Sav- sociologist of monstrosity, Shelley lic childhood, coddled by the most ille, open the novel and establish its reveals less that “monsters” can be loving of parents. We can ﬁnd no benchmark of values: created on laboratory tables than excuses for Victor’s failures aside that they become locked into their from something fundamentally I have one want which I have monstrosity by a culture that offers missing from his character: the never yet been able to sat- them neither succor nor friend- quality of empathy and the courage isfy; and the absence of an ship. Hers is a new version of the of responsibility. object of which I now feel as monstrous for a modern age, with the most severe evil. I have Shelley’s novel created the tem- its grimy Industrial Revolution, ex- no friend, Margaret: when I plate for a future of Godzillas and ploitation of the poor and children am glowing with the enthusi- zombies, as well as the proverbial working in unsafe factories and asm of success, there will be “mad scientist,” spawn of industrial appalling conditions, proliferation none to participate my joy; if chemicals and nuclear radiation, of of destitute families living on the I am assailed by disappoint- the hubristic scientiﬁc laboratories streets of London, even as an elite ment, no one will endeavor of modern life stripped of human caste of wealthy business titans be- to sustain me in dejection. sentiment and ethics. By the nine- gan to dominate England’s major teenth century, monsters became The novel begins with the “severe cities. We should argue about who the byproducts of a newly privi- evil” of loneliness, and throughout, is most to blame in the devastation leged belief in the powers of experi- it will be this afﬂiction -- of having ultimately wrought by Shelley’s no- mental science and its unholy drive no true friend nor companionship torious Creature. But her brilliant to “penetrate into the secret parts of with others -- that deforms the in- novel makes one thing indisputable: Nature,” as Shelley writes of Victor. herently good disposition that re- it takes a village to raise a Monster. That such an undertaking is seen as sides in the Creature’s body. What, masculine is never in doubt in the Shelley asks, are the emotional and novel, from the pillaging of grave- human duties people owe each oth- yards to harnessing the secrets of er, especially parents to children? electricity to animating dead mat- What is the role of compassion and
A Companion to Frankenstein — 13 Matters of Life and Death: Scientiﬁc Ethics in Frankenstein by Associate Professor Lisa Sideris and Jacob Boss, doctoral student Religious Studies, Indiana University
Mary Shelley (1797-1851) composed teenth century, physicians in En- During Shelley’s lifetime, the pro- Frankenstein in 1816 while vacation- gland established a “Society for the fessionalization of medicine was in ing in Switzerland during one of the Recovery of Persons Apparently full swing. Cadavers were urgently coldest summers in recorded histo- Drowned.” Annual processions of needed for medical experimenta- ry. Dense atmospheric dust from a individuals seemingly brought back tion and training of surgeons. The volcanic eruption in what is now from the dead by the Society’s meth- Murder Act passed in 1752 had Indonesia created freakishly frigid ods did little to quell public anxiety made it legal for physicians to ob- temperatures and dark and dreary about the reliability of death pro- tain the bodies of convicted mur- days throughout much of Europe nouncements. Only the onset of derers; dissection was deemed an and North America. Shelley and her putrefaction, it seemed, was a trust- additional form of punishment. But companions were driven indoors worthy indicator of death. Stories of demand greatly outstripped supply. where they took to writing ghost miraculous resurrection and doubt- To make up the shortfall, “resur- stories at the ﬁreside. ful death fed public fears of being rectionists”—body-snatchers— sup- buried alive, as literary scholar Sha- plied corpses to medical schools. The idea that Shelley’s dark tale of ron Ruston argues. While they beneﬁted enormously scientiﬁc overreach was spawned from the practice of grave-robbing, by alarming, widespread shifts in Then as now, the prospect of “cur- medical professionals were eager to climate has captivated scholars who ing” death elicited society’s greatest dissociate themselves from the pro- note that cold, violent, or gloomy hopes and fears. Attempts to resur- fane resurrectionists who incited weather appears on nearly every rect the (conﬁrmed) dead were not fear among the public. page of the novel. The climatic birth unknown. Italian physician Luigi of Frankenstein has special reso- Galvani (1737-98), observing what Shelley portrays Victor Franken- nance today, as we witness our own appeared to be the animating effect stein as a blend of scientist and weird weather events and as scien- of electricity on a dead frog, began resurrectionist. He gathers the tists contemplate what may be the similar experiments with hanged gruesome materials for his creation ultimate act of technological hubris: criminals. The burgeoning science during nighttime visits to grave- geo-engineering strategies to bring of resurrection that took his name— yards. Other corpses begin to accu- global temperatures under human galvanism—inﬂuenced Shelley’s mulate as the story unfolds—those control. portrait of Victor Frankenstein as of Victor’s brother William, his a man consumed with locating “the friend Clerval, and his bride Eliza- But is Frankenstein best understood principle of life.” Victor ambitiously beth. Upon animating his creation, as a critique of scientiﬁc arrogance proclaims life and death as “ideal Victor is troubled by visions of his and techno-mastery? To answer bounds” for his research. Shelley’s bride decomposing before his eyes, this question, we need to explore Preface to the 1831 edition of Fran- and taking the form of his deceased not only the physical environment kenstein alludes to galvanism as a mother. “I thought that I held the but also the scientiﬁc and ethical “token” of contemporary hopes and corpse of my dead mother in my contexts that shaped the book. fears: “Perhaps,” she writes “a corpse arms … I saw the grave-worms The period in which Shelley com- would be re-animated … the compo- crawling in the folds of the ﬂannel.” posed Frankenstein was character- nent parts of a creature might be Though he is not directly responsi- ized by intense fascination with the manufactured, brought together, ble for these deaths, Victor’s associ- processes of life and death, as well and endued with vital warmth.” ation with resurrectionism suggests as deep uncertainty about these that even his loved ones may not be That galvanic methods were con- categories. At a time when few peo- safe from the anatomist’s incessant ducted on bodies of the criminal ple could swim, tales of drowned need for corpses. In short, Victor dead points to another relevant fea- persons seemingly brought back to represents the nineteenth century’s ture of nineteenth-century science. life were rampant. In the late eigh- deep ambivalence toward scientiﬁc discovery.
A Companion to Frankenstein — 14 Cinematic renderings of Franken- tion of extinct species, and the en- sponsibly steward our creations or stein have portrayed Victor as wildly hancement of human and animal ﬂee from them in horror. Shelley’s exultant over his bold creation. “Now bodies. Technology invites humans work appears prophetic because I know what it feels like to be God!” to see themselves as divine creators, the aims that possess its tormented Victor boasts in an early adaptation. and the earth as the garden or labo- protagonist are of perennial con- Shelley tells a far more complex tale. ratory within which to explore and cern to human beings: to search Initially driven by desire for esteem celebrate our manipulation of na- out the secrets of heaven and earth, and glory—and perhaps some im- ture. “We are as gods and might as to gain control over the world and pulse to aid humankind—Victor is well get good at it,” in the words of our lives, and to struggle against instantly remorseful, even sickened, modern-day resurrectionist Stew- death itself. Perhaps we do well to by the sight of the enlivened crea- art Brand. read Frankenstein not as a blanket ture. His anxiety about his powers of indictment of science and technol- Currently, two major paths are be- creation, and their potential unfore- ogy, and the creative impulse, but as ing pursued for the intentional seen consequences, feels strangely a cautionary tale about the dangers creation of new forms of life: the modern and familiar to us. of science and technology divorced alteration of biological life through from deep ethical reﬂection. Every technology emerges in re- genetic modiﬁcation and the de- sponse to a combination of envi- velopment of artiﬁcial intelligence For all her powers of imagination, ronmental stimuli and personal in- or synthetic life. In the nightmares Shelley could not have envisioned genuity. In myth, ﬁre is stolen from of technologists, these new forms our present intimacy with technol- the gods and wielded by humans to are able to reproduce, and by sheer ogy. Beyond our daily communion remake the world. In the history of power and quantity, replace the hu- with smartphones, laptops, and oth- science, inventors whose creations man species. Similarly, we ﬁnd Vic- er devices, an ever-rising number have shaped the world sometimes tor torn between manufacturing of us have technology implanted di- liken themselves to the ﬁre-stealing a mate for his lonely creature and rectly into our bodies --- pacemak- Prometheus. They tend to identify abandoning his research forever, ers, artiﬁcial limbs, synthetic joints, with the ﬁrst part of the myth in for fear of spawning a race of mon- transplanted organs, even micro- which a daring being snatches pow- sters. He shudders to realize that chips. Soon we may be able to grow er and knowledge from the divine “future ages might curse me as their replacement organs for ourselves. abode. In the second movement of pest, whose selﬁshness had not hes- Most jarringly, modern science the Promethean legend, however, itated to buy its own peace at the suggests that, like Frankenstein’s the hero is cast into unceasing tor- price, perhaps, of the existence of creature, we too are composite be- ment and punishment for his trans- the whole human race.” ings whose bodies are composed of gression. bacteria, fungi, viruses, and archaea Is it inevitable that future genera- that together can outnumber our Shelley did not neglect this second tions will curse us for the technol- human cells. Heavy metals, plas- movement. Frankenstein is subti- ogies we bring to life? In some in- tics, and other pollutants are also tled “The Modern Prometheus,” and terpretations, Victor Frankenstein part of the very fabric of our living Victor’s scientiﬁc pursuits send him fails not as a creator but as a parent. tissues. Like a coral reef, a human careening from the sweetest ecsta- His crime was not the hubris of body is home to many creatures sies of discovery and invention to technological creation but his aban- and creations. Perhaps there is no the depths of utmost despair and donment of the creature. This in- escaping the “other.” It lives within destruction. “It was the secrets of terpretation speaks to modern fears us. As technology allows us to en- heaven and earth that I desired to that the offspring of our minds will hance our bodies and engineer our learn,” he declares. Victor seeks to ultimately supersede or destroy us. global environment in ever more “unfold to the world the deepest Tesla founder Elon Musk, for exam- dramatic ways, we will have to con- mysteries of creation,” only to ﬁnd ple, frequently expresses anxieties sider carefully the ethics of seeking himself, like Prometheus, “chained that artiﬁcial intelligence poses a to become our own creators. in an eternal hell.” threat to humanity’s survival. Col- onizing Mars may be our only es- Today, gene editing tools such as cape. On the other hand, Japanese CRISPR promise to unfold some of roboticist Masahiro Mori believes those deep mysteries, hastening the robots will absorb and share our collapse of science ﬁction into fact. cultural values, even our religions. Enthusiasts of gene editing look to- Which vision is more disturbing? ward the elimination of unwanted inherited conditions, the resurrec- Much hinges on whether we re-
A Companion to Frankenstein — 15 Diverse Adaptations of Frankenstein by Associate Professor Monique Morgan and Provost Professor Stephen Watt Department of English, Indiana University
Frankenstein pervades popular is mute and Frankenstein has an as- movie The Bride of Frankenstein, the culture, seen frequently on stage, sistant (here named Fritz, not Igor). actor had become so associated with ﬁlm, TV, Halloween decorations, As its title would imply, Peake’s play the part that his name was embla- even cereal boxes. Yet most ﬁrst- is more overtly moralizing than zoned on advertising posters in font time readers of Mary Shelley’s 1818 Shelley’s novel, yet it still maintains nearly as large as that of the ﬁlm’s novel, Frankenstein, or the Modern some sympathy for the creature. title. And his ﬁrst name was no lon- Prometheus, are shocked because it A reviewer in The London Morning ger necessary to promote the movie, differs so radically from so many Post said of the creature, “he is in only “starring KARLOFF.” The Son of of its adaptations. In adaptions of the beginning of his creation gentle, Frankenstein was released in 1939, the novel for commercial ﬁlms the and disposed to be affectionate and and in 1944 Boris Karloff starred creature is often portrayed as awk- kind, but his appearance terriﬁes . . as a mad scientist in The House of ward, shufﬂing, and mute, whereas . the alarm he excites creates hostil- Frankenstein, which featured anoth- in Shelley’s novel he quickly scales ity . . . and revenge and malignity er actor in the role of the Monster glaciers and speaks persuasively us- are thus excited in his breast.” The and appearances by other well- ing elevated diction inﬂuenced by stage directions call for the crea- known horror ﬁlm characters such Milton’s Paradise Lost. In the ﬁlms ture’s skin to be blue-gray, though as Dracula and the Wolf Man. the mad scientist often harnesses reviewers often thought it looked The style of these ﬁlms and charac- lightning using elaborate mechan- green or yellow. In other respects, ters grew in prominence as well. In ical equipment; by contrast Shelley the creature’s appearance matched preparation for directing Franken- provides few details about Victor Shelley’s description in the novel: he stein, Whale viewed several exam- Frankenstein’s methods, though had black hair, “straight black lips,” ples of German horror ﬁlms from we are told that as a child he was and “watery eyes.” He was played the 1920s, F.W. Murnau’s vampire fascinated by his father’s demon- by Thomas Potter Cooke, and the ﬁlm Nosferatu (1922) for example. strations of electricity, and that he playbill listed his character’s name Shot in the visual style of what is “infuse[s] a spark of being” into his as a blank: “ – .” After seeing the commonly referred to as “German creature. In popular culture, Victor play, Mary Shelley, who was “much expressionism,” ﬁlms like Nosfer- works with an assistant in an iso- amused,” praised this decision: “this atu and the earlier The Cabinet of lated castle; Shelley’s Victor works nameless mode of naming the un- Dr. Caligari (1920) provided an aes- alone in an attic in a bustling uni- namable is rather good.” (The ten- thetic to match the content of the versity town. And in monster-mov- dency to confuse “Frankenstein” emergent horror ﬁlm. Whale incor- ie versions of Frankenstein, the sci- as the name of the creature rather porated elements such as low-key entist is wholly misguided and the than his creator began later.) lighting, slanted stage settings, and creature induces horror, whereas Many widely recognized revisions angular or “canted” framing of shots Shelley presents a complex, sympa- of the novel Mary Shelley wrote to heighten the ﬁlm’s sense of the thetic meditation on Victor’s aspira- originate, perhaps oddly, more than bizarre—or the monstrous. Perhaps tions and oversights, and leaves un- a century later in popular American the most obvious of these effects ac- answered the question of whether ﬁlms from the 1930s. After British counts for the Monster’s unnatural the creature’s violence was caused director James Whale signed a ﬁve- appearance, with his heavily made- by his unnatural origin or by his year contract with Universal Stu- up face, padded costume, and awk- subsequent abandonment and mis- dios in 1931 and made one ﬁlm, he ward gestures and movement. treatment. turned to Frankenstein, casting a The 1970s gave us two modern Some of these changes were effect- little-known actor, Boris Karloff, as classics that moved Frankenstein’s ed just ﬁve years after the novel was the Monster. Karloff had appeared genre into comedy and camp (and published, in the ﬁrst stage adapta- in a number of silent ﬁlms prior to moved the scientist to Transylva- tion: Richard Brinsley Peake’s Pre- this, but barely managed to earn a nia – Dracula’s native land). In Mel sumption, or the Fate of Frankenstein living. All that would change. By Brooks’s Young Frankenstein (1974), (1823). In Peake’s play, the creature 1935 and the production of Whale’s
A Companion to Frankenstein — 16 Frederick Frankenstein, grandson of the original mad scientist, moves to a castle in Transylvania and dis- covers his grandfather’s research. The movie parodies James Whale’s ﬁlms in its German expression- ist visuals, its electrical apparatus for creation, and Frankenstein’s scream: “It’s alive!” Frederick’s assis- tant mistakenly provides an abnor- mal brain to transplant in the crea- ture, which inhibits the creature’s physical coordination and mental development. Unlike Victor in Shel- ley’s novel, Frederick Frankenstein Actor Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter (left) from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. 1975. does not abandon his creation. In- stead, he provides instruction and pe, Victor’s professors at Ingolstadt. expressionist imagery. Mary Shel- affection, with partial success, and The creature, played by Robert De ley’s novel, then, has been repeated- later performs a second experiment Niro, is rejected because of his dis- ly reanimated with a diverse array to boost the creature’s brain power. ﬁgurement, yet learns to speak el- of genres, social critiques, and emo- The ﬁlm thus stresses both nature oquently. This version imagines tional responses. and nurture, and, in keeping with a creation scene using science Cardinal Stage is performing Nick its status as a comedy, offers the that would have been available in Dear’s adaptation of Frankenstein, characters much happier endings Shelley’s time. Victor (played by which premiered in 2011 at the Roy- than Shelley’s Gothic novel does. Branagh himself) derives the nec- al National Theatre in London. The Jim Sharman’s The Rocky Horror essary sparks from electric eels, ﬁrst London performances were di- Picture Show (1975) takes the prem- which emerge from a ﬂuid-ﬁlled rected by Danny Boyle and starred ise of Shelley’s novel as the basis for sac; the imagery suggests Victor is Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny a camp musical celebrating sexual usurping the creative powers of sex- Lee Miller, who took turns playing liberation and experimentation. In ual reproduction. In some respects, Victor Frankenstein and the crea- one of its most famous songs, Dr. though, Branagh’s ﬁlm is over-the- ture on alternate nights. This cast- Frank-N-Furter declares, “I’m just a top (though never quite as campy ing decision highlighted Victor and sweet transvestite from transsexu- as Rocky Horror), as when Victor the creature’s status as doubles, vy- al Transylvania.” Whereas Shelley’s casts off his dressing gown to run ing for power and bringing out each Frankenstein was motivated by sci- through his laboratory bare-chest- other’s worst impulses – a theme entiﬁc ambition to create life and ed, or in the ﬁlm’s grotesque and already prominent in Mary Shel- was later asked by his creature for a unexpected climax. ley’s novel and Nick Dear’s script. companion, Frank-N-Furter creates In 1997, episodes inspired by Fran- Dear’s play also takes up the novel’s the perfect man, Rocky, as a com- kenstein aired in two television parallelism between Victor’s ﬁan- panion for himself. Rocky, however, series that straddled the boundary cée and the possible female creature seeks companionship from anoth- between horror fantasy and sci- and makes it more explicit, pushing er character. Rather than debating ence ﬁction (as did Shelley’s novel). it much further than Mary Shelley nature vs. nurture, the ﬁlm instead Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Some did. Many of the central themes of explores self-expression and sexual Assembly Required” literalizes and Shelley’s novel – parents’ responsi- freedom, and itself adopts a camp critiques society’s objectiﬁcation of bilities to their children, scientists’ aesthetic of exuberant excess. women through a plot involving two responsibilities to their test sub- Two decades later, Kenneth high school boys who want to con- jects and to society, society’s unfair Branagh’s ﬁlm Mary Shelley’s Fran- struct the perfect woman out of in- structures of power and prejudice, kenstein (1994) attempted, as its ti- dividually beautiful body parts. The and the wonders and challenges of tle implies, to return to the original X-Files’s episode “The Post-Modern learning – are at the heart of Dear’s novel. In many respects, it is a more Prometheus” explores the themes play, and will continue to inspire, faithful adaptation of Shelley, most of presumption, isolation, and ac- challenge, and haunt audiences. notably in including minor charac- ceptance through a modern story ters like Robert Walton, the Arctic involving genetic engineering told explorer, and Waldman and Krem- through black-and-white German
A Companion to Frankenstein — 17 Frankenstein, Technology, and the Industrial Revolution by Associate Professor Monique Morgan Department of English, Indiana University
Frankenstein and technology. For imented on the head of an ox, frog In 1816, though, British industry many people, this phrase will con- legs, and the body of a dog. In the was not powered by electricity; it jure images of elaborate electri- most notorious example, in January was increasingly powered by steam cal equipment that harnesses the 1803, he produced motion in various engines fueled by coal. Though the power of lighting to animate a body parts of the murderer George steam engine had been invented monstrous corpse as his creator Forster, one hour after he had been earlier, in the 1760s through the maniacally screams, “It’s alive!” executed at Newgate Prison. Aldini 1780s, James Watt, working ﬁrst This frequent and powerful motif made Forster’s jaw quiver, one eye with John Roebuck and later with in popular culture has its origin in open, and his ﬁst contract. Mary Matthew Boulton, developed more James Whale’s 1930s ﬁlms Franken- Shelley was certainly aware of gal- efﬁcient designs that made it more stein and The Bride of Frankenstein. vanism. Aldini’s demonstrations practical to apply steam engines to Mary Shelley’s novel, in contrast, offers little detail about Victor Fran- kenstein’s procedure to animate his creature, though we know he gathers body parts from many dif- ferent corpses and chooses those of unusually large size to make his surgical work easier. Shelley does hint at the importance of electricity, though. When Victor is a teenager, he is amazed to witness lightning destroy a tree. His father explains electricity to him by using a kite to draw an electrical charge from a cloud and by building a small elec- trical device. When Victor is an adult, his goal is to “infuse a spark of being” into his creature, and his language may well be literal. In the early nineteenth century, the public was fascinated by “animal electricity” or “galvanism,” named Robinson, Henry. A Galvanized Corpse. 1836. H.R. Robinson, New York. after Luigi Galvani, who found that electrical charges produce motion in muscles. Some speculated that were widely covered in the popular manufacturing. Around the same animal electricity might be the vi- press. Moreover, John Polidori, By- time, Richard Arkwright patent- tal principle responsible for life. ron’s personal physician and author ed the water frame, a machine for Galvani’s nephew Giovanni Aldini of The Vampyre, saw galvanic ex- spinning multiple threads at once. performed public demonstrations of periments performed in Edinburgh, His initial 1769 patent used water galvanism by connecting the bodies and Polidori likely discussed them power, but in the 1780s, he devel- of recently deceased animals to a with Byron and the Shelleys during oped a version powered by a steam Voltaic pile (an early form of bat- the summer of 1816 when they engine. Soon after, the power loom tery) to produce motion. He exper- stayed together in Switzerland. was invented; it was able to weave
A Companion to Frankenstein — 18 threads together into fabric. The Industrial Revolution thus began with Britain’s tex- tile industry, and large me- chanical equipment installed in factories replaced spinning wheels and hand looms in cottages. By 1820 cotton tex- tiles made up half of British exports. In the following de- cade, steam engines began to be used to power land trans- portation, and soon railroad tracks were being laid across the English landscape. There were, of course, stark human consequences to in- dustrialization. The work- force became more mobile and population centers shifted as laborers moved to northern cities, especially Actress Elsa Lanchester from Bride of Frankenstein. 1935. Manchester, where the fac- tories were concentrated. Between reads the monster as a metaphor for phes was the 1815 eruption of Mt. 1770 and 1850, Manchester’s pop- the “proletariat” – a term that refers Tambora in Indonesia. The volca- ulation grew from about 25,000 to to industrial workers in a capitalist no sent so much dust and debris in more than 300,000 people. Work- system. “Like the proletariat, the the atmosphere that it temporarily ing conditions in factories were monster is denied a name and an changed the global climate. Tambo- unhealthy, the hours were long, individuality,” Moretti argues (85); ra created the cold and rainy weath- and children were part of the labor “Like the proletariat, he is a collec- er than kept the Shelleys indoors force. Eventually, industry became tive and artiﬁcial creature” (85). And telling ghost stories, which inspired somewhat regulated. The Facto- as Moretti points out, the creature is Mary to write Frankenstein. Accord- ry Act of 1833 prohibited children quite literally made from the bodies ing to Gillen D’Arcy Wood, “the ex- under the age of nine from work- of the poor, from those most hurt by perience of Mary Shelley’s creature ing in textile mills, and the 1842 economic, technological, and social most closely embodies the degrada- Mines Act declared that no women change. For in the early nineteenth tion and suffering of the homeless or girls, and no boys under age ten, century, medical schools in need of European poor in the Tambora pe- were allowed to work underground cadavers to dissect most often got riod, while the violent disgust of in mines. Working hours were reg- them from prisons, poor houses, or Frankenstein and everyone else to- ulated in the 1847 Ten Hours Act, grave robbers. When Mary Shelley ward him mirrors the utter [lack] of which made it illegal for women or began the novel in 1816, the poor sympathy shown by most afﬂuent children in any industry to work were especially vulnerable to hun- Europeans toward the millions of more than ten hours per day. Chil- ger and vagrancy, for several rea- Tambora’s climate victims suffering dren worked in factories out of sons. There had been a number of hunger, disease, and the loss of their economic necessity; wages were so food shortages during the Napole- homes and livelihoods.” Franken- low that one or two adults could not onic Wars, which had just ended in stein may not describe technology earn enough to support themselves 1815. And 1816, known as “the year at length, but Mary Shelley grounds and a family, so their children had without a summer,” suffered from the novel in contemporary science, to contribute to the household’s in- unusually cold and cloudy weather, reﬂects on global events, and sym- come. which triggered crop failures, out- pathetically portrays the suffering The precarious position of exploit- breaks of disease, and migrations of caused by the Industrial Revolution ed laborers may have an analogue the poor hoping to ﬁnd better con- and climate change. in Frankenstein’s creature. In Signs ditions elsewhere. The underlying Taken for Wonders, Franco Moretti cause of these European catastro-
A Companion to Frankenstein — 19 Whose Monster is the More Probable Language Learner? by Professor Emeritus Phil Connell Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, Indiana Univeristy
Everyone knows the Frankenstein I will then extend the analysis to point from which he can hear what story: a mad scientist creates a hid- Dear’s play by considering whether they say, see the words they write eous man-like giant by stitching the changes he makes to the lan- on a writing board, and read books together body parts taken from guage-teaching methods would im- along with them. The monster corpses and soon after the mon- prove the probability of the results. gains competence in step with the ster breaks free to terrorize the woman, and they both reach full Science has made great strides since early nineteenth-century Europe- competence in about four months 1818 in deepening our understand- an countryside. Fewer know that of daily lessons. The fact that the ing of how language works and why Frankenstein was not the name of monster never has an opportunity children come to acquire it more the monster but was the name of to engage in the language lessons as easily than adults. In a nutshell, the mad scientist who created him. actively as the woman, who repeats what we have learned is that chil- And far fewer know that the scien- words and phrases, answers ques- dren are born with a mental module tist created a monster who had no tions, and creates sentences on her that makes them language-learning language, and that, before the mon- own, does not necessarily make the geniuses. Without effort or inten- ster’s rampaging adventures began, method ineffective for him as I will tion, children use their modules he met a talented amateur language explain later. to help them acquire the basic at- teacher who helped him become a tributes of the language spoken or In Nick Dear’s theatrical version of ﬂuent speaker. signed around them in less than the Frankenstein story, the mon- These events are part of a story that three years. In comparison, adults ster is taught by an old blind man Mary Shelley told in her ﬁrst nov- are poor language learners. They named De Lacey who befriends el, Frankenstein, published in 1818, can acquire a new language, but, him and teaches him a language which Nick Dear adapted for the compared to young children, their while lecturing him about topics theater in 2011. The purpose of this progress is slower, their learning that could be described as world essay is to examine whether the less requires more effort, and their ﬁnal knowledge. He begins by teaching known part of the story, the lan- level of attainment is lower com- the monster to write the alpha- guage teaching part, is believable. Sir pared to young children. They learn bet, to say letter sounds, and then Walter Scott, a famous novelist and without full access to the mental read words. De Lacey uses writing contemporary of Shelley, criticized module. Their learning perfor- and spelling as a principle teach- her novel for lacking an important mance can be improved to some de- ing method even though he has no characteristic of all good science ﬁc- gree by having a dedicated language ability to see or evaluate his pupil’s tion, that the story be “probable”. He teacher but they rarely reach native writing attempts. From these simple used the term to refer to a reader’s competence. There are, however, beginnings, the next teaching epi- willingness to accept even the most exceptional cases where native-like sode we see is De Lacey giving the bizarre and unusual circumstances ﬂuency has been attained. These monster a lecture on “Original Sin,” in a work of ﬁction if the charac- unusual learners seem to have been referring to abstract concepts such ters respond to the circumstances able to avoid losing access to the as conscience and guilt. The fact in ways that could be described as language module. that the monster understands the probable. Scott concluded that the lecture implies that he has attained In Mary Shelley’s original version language teaching part of the sto- adult-level language ﬂuency some- of the language-teaching part of the ry violated the reader’s expectation time during the year he has been story, the monster learns language of probability. My purpose in this meeting with De Lacey. Having a indirectly; by surreptitiously watch- essay is to reconsider the evidence dedicated teacher who meets with ing a man teach a woman a second that led to Scott’s decision from him regularly for a year increas- language. The monster watches the perspective of modern science. es the probability that the method the sessions from a hidden vantage
A Companion to Frankenstein — 20 could have been effective. But since so little detail is provided about the actual language lesson, it is impossi- ble to judge the probability of their effectiveness. Shelley’s method wins my vote as the teaching method that would be more likely to be successful. Her method has aspects that bear a sim- ilarity to the way some children who have movement and coordina- tion problems successfully acquire a language. Some children who have a physical impairment such as cere- bral palsy have no ability to respond to someone who speaks to them. In the past, it was commonly assumed that these children could not ac- quire a language or could acquire Actor Karl Johnson as De Lacey and Benedict Cumberbatch as The Creature from only a rudimentary language. With Frankenstein. Dir. Danny Boyle. Olivier, National Theater, London. 2011. the development of computer tech- nology that allows one to spell out ter death. Countering this negative, Sir Walter Scott found Shelley’s words using input from eye-move- though, is the fact that the monster teaching scenario to be so improb- ment or muscle movement sensors, was observing an adult struggle to able that he could not recommend we now know that many of these learn a language, and learning from the book. I think that if he were to children progress in language ac- her mistakes might have improved come alive today, perhaps by the quisition at a normal rate. Using this his learning performance. intervention of a mad scientist, his technology, many now attend regu- mind would change to my way of lar elementary, junior, and senior thinking. I hope you can ﬁnd that high schools, graduate from college, probable. and go on to obtain productive em- ployment. Shelley’s monster did not have a physical disability that took away his capacity to speak. His si- lence is intentional. Given that chil- dren can acquire a language while remaining silent, it makes sense to believe that our monster could too. I must temper my enthusiasm for Shelley’s method to some degree because the monster described by Shelley and Dear is an adult, and thus would be far less capable of acquiring a language than a child would be. Nonetheless, I grant Shel- ley more credit than Sir Walter Scott did for creating a teaching scenario that has a chance of being success- ful. My estimate of its effectiveness would increase if the monster had the brain of one of those special adults who retain some of their lan- First U.S. edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or The Modern guage-learning genius throughout Prometheus. Philadelphia: Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1833. their lives, and in this context, af-
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A Companion to Frankenstein — 22 oris Karloff (1931), stopher Lee (1957), anken Berry (1971) bert De Niro (1994), ny Lee Miller (2011), Rory Kinnear (2014)
19741975 1986 1994 1997 2011
rror comedy ung Frankenstein, Gothic, directed Nick Dear’s Frankenstein, ected by Mel by Ken Russell, “Some Assembly Required,” directed by Danny ooks and starring provides a ﬁlm a Frankenstein-inspired Boyle, premieres at ne Wilder, is version of the episode of Buffy the the National Theatre eased. conception of Vampire Slayer, airs in London. Frankenstein. on television. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is released, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, ransforming Victor directed by Kenneth Frankenstein into Branagh, is released. The Dr. Frank-N-Furter, ﬁlm attempts to return the a “sweet transvestite story to Shelley’s vision. rom transsexual Transylvania.”