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Frankenstein: Origins and Afterlives

History 4741 - Fall 2020

As the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein recently passed, this class will study both the novel's origins and its powerful and abiding influence on our culture across a wide range of disciplines. The text itself is complex and layered, responding to its literary precursors, Enlightenment science, radical politics, aesthetic theory, feminism, Romantic idealism, Gothic horror, and more. In order to understand these influences, we will examine texts read by Mary Shelley (and her characters), including letters, essays, poems, and scientific reports. Our study of the novel's afterlives will begin with R. B. Peake's 1823 play, Presumption, which shaped much of the popular understanding of the Frankenstein myth during the 19th century. Our investigation of 20th- and 21st-century manifestations of Frankenstein will focus on its appearance in film, racial discourse, scientific ethics, popular culture, and advertising. This portion of the course will include a viewing of the iconic 1931 Boris Karloff film, which established indelible versions of the mad scientist and his "monster." Students in this seminar will be supported in developing individual final projects of their own design. For the English major, this course satisfies the Nineteenth Century requirement.
Course Attributes: BU HumAS HUMEL NCCFH MH

Section 01

Frankenstein: Origins and Afterlives
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