Frankenstein at 200

Eli Whitney Museum

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2018 Summer Program

200 years ago, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin published Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. She was not much older than the apprentices who will assist in this class. She was traveling in Europe with Percy Shelley who would become her husband. The story marks a turing point in modern science fiction.

Mary Shelley’s story has been retold many times. She meant to warn that there might be danger in undisciplined science. She knew of electrical experiments by the Italian, Galvani, but she does not include those in Victor Frankenstein’s sorcery. The lightening and arcing machines were added in the 1931 film.

Trace Shelley’s story and Galvani’s spark as they have connected in the discussion of the power of science. Master the classical experiment that demonstrate electricity’s wonder. Experiment with the visible and invisible mechanics of electricity. Construct a spark generator that Galvani or Ben Franklin would have understood. Build a spark device that likely influenced the 1931 film with promises that were still the stuff of science fiction. Create circuits that imitate new experiments that use lights to trigger memory. (No real brains involved.)

In the future, you will have access to powers far greater than Mary Shelly invented for Victor Frankenstein. Her message to you: prepare to take responsibility for all that you create.

note: We will watch some scenes from movies that show the comic and sad uses of Shelley’s creation, always careful to avoid the stuff of nightmares.

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