Frankenstein at 200: Hideous Progeny

Autumn 2018-2019

20072

Alexis Chema

2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, arguably the most famous horror story ever written. Frankenstein is also a mythopoetic tour de force whose searching moral and ethical questions—at what cost should we pursue scientific advances, or seek knowledge more generally? What are the effects of social marginalization? Where is the boundary between the drive to create and the desire for power?—command more attention today than ever. In this seminar we will examine the novel both as it engaged earlier cultural works (Plutarch’s Lives, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Godwin’s Political Justice, Wollstonecraft’sVindication of the Rights of Woman, Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther), and as it morphed over the course of two centuries into a full-blown modern myth. Indeed, its adaptations, scholarly editions, imitations, and parodies are legion, spanning nineteenth-century melodramas, popular songs, numerous blockbuster films (including the prequel to Ridley Scott’s Aliens saga), comic books, a new Netflix miniseries, and even, rather amazingly, at least one children’s book series. We will have the unique opportunity of attending the world premier of the newest stage interpretation of Shelley’s novel at the Court Theatre and discussing the projects of adaptation and remediation with its director and cast. Students will have the option of producing their own creative adaptation as their culminating project for the course. (Fiction, 1650-1830)