Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein during the year 1816 and first published it in 1818, marking the debut of one of British Romanticism's most celebrated works of literature. This January 30th, 2017, The Oakridge School will be hosting students and faculty of various schools to discuss Shelley's novel 200 years later. We encourage students to submit papers based on one of the prompts listed below, and the submissions deadline will be November 22, 2016. All students are encouraged to submit papers in the format of a Word document with the student's name, grade level, and school included in the header. Students whose submissions are accepted will be invited to present their papers in various workshops at the Frankenstein Colloquium at The Oakridge School on January 30th, 2017.
For 9th & 10th graders: we recommend papers should be 750 to 1000 words
For 11th & 12th graders: we recommend papers should be 1000 to 1500 words
Below, we've tried to provide prompts that are interdisciplinary in nature, appealing to literary, historical, scientific, and philosophical modes of inquiry. At the bottom of the page, there is a link to the official submission form that students will use to share their submissions.
If there are any questions, please contact Jared Colley, English Chair:
Science & Ethics:
1. Using the novel as a framework, explore the ethical implications of contemporary advancements in biochemistry and bio-engineering (ex: gene alteration/manipulation, stem cell research, cloning, eugenics). What can we learn from Mary Shelley's novel? How does the text contribute to such conversations about recent advancements in science?
2. Using the novel as a framework, explore the ways in which we are increasingly "monstrous" (science-enhanced) beings rather than "natural" beings. (See this link for more on this idea)
3. Using the novel as a framework, examine the following question: when does science (the study of "nature") become an "unnatural" endeavor and why? What does Mary Shelley's novel teach us about this question?
4. Isaac Asimov coined the phrase "Frankenstein Complex" to describe our inherent fear of "mechanical men." His idea has much in common with the Uncanny Valley hypothesis. Explore how these concepts apply both to Shelley's novel and to recent advancements in sciences such as AI or mechanical engineering.
5. Explore Mary Shelley's cautionary tale in the context of one of the following: Radical Revolutionary Romanticism, the Enlightenment, the Rise of early Feminism, Social Contract Theory, the French Revolution and/or the Napoleonic Wars, or Mary Shelley's biography.
6. Discuss a historical or scientific event that has occurred after the writing of Frankenstein. How does Shelley's novel anticipate or offer a possible interpretation of the forces at work in that event?
Literary Analysis & Argument:
7. Evaluate whether Frankenstein can be read as a Feminist text. Consider representations and roles of gender as well as narrative voice and make an argument whether there's room for a Feminist reading.
8. Examine Shelley's novel as a story about humans who overreach. Consider exploring what motivates the overreacher as well as where (or why) that character oversteps in some way. Optional: compare Victor (or Robert Walton) as a literary overreacher to another classic character from another text (suggestions: Macbeth, Milton's Satan, the Ancient Mariner, etc.).
9. Interpret Mary Shelley's Frankenstein through the lens of one of the many poems referenced or alluded to in the novel. (Suggestions: John Milton's Paradise Lost, William Wordsworth's "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey", Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", or Percy Shelley's "Mont Blanc" or "Mutability".
10. Examine the concept of "monstrosity" in Mary Shelley's novel. What makes a character "monstrous" in this novel (perhaps consider the dichotomies of interior vs. exterior character traits, being inside vs. outside society/community, etc.). Optional: compare Shelley's treatment of monstrosity to an example from another text.
11. Make an argument about one of the following: Is there a hero in the story? Who is it and why? -or- Is there a villain in the story? Who is it and why?
12. Explore one (or both) of the following: In Shelley's novel, is Nature a place of refuge or a place of savagery? -or- In Shelley's novel, is Society/Civilization a place of refuge or a place of savagery?
13. How does this novel inform your understanding of what makes for a happy family?
14. Explore how Mary Shelley presents us with the perplexing paradox of living in a community. (see the hedgehog's dilemma for more insight on this idea)
15. In what way(s) does Otherness factor into the novel? How might lessons be applied to the Other in a 21st century context? (Of course, one could discuss the Monster in this context, but readers may want to consider other instances, such as Justine and Safie)
Remember, submissions are due Nov. 22nd, 2016.
Submission Form can be found here.
Return to the Frankenstein Colloquium blog here.
Chair, English Department
The Oakridge School
5900 West Pioneer Parkway
Arlington, TX 76013