“Frankenfest 2018” is a series of events centered on a specific cultural work, Mary Shelley’s short novel “Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus,” that showcases how humanistic and other liberal arts and science disciplines engage each other.

The young Mary Shelley’s shattering novel was originally published anonymously in London in 1818, precisely 200 years ago this January. Despite its age, Frankenstein continues to engage contemporaries as a work that touches on continuing questions for humanists and scientists about the ethics and limits of human knowledge, familial relations and social obligation, theories of education, the role of reading in forming a self, and about the obligations inherent in interaction between the human and the nonhuman.

It was reissued in 1831 in a much revised, and some scholars believe, tamed version. This project takes the bicentennial of this work’s initial publication as the occasion for an extended series of events hosted on the New College campus engaging multiple disciplines both within and beyond the Humanities and Arts in considering the work and its impact.

We aim to build community through a series of timely events that promote fresh ways of thinking about seemingly familiar material through engaged and sustained conversation across town-gown constituents. Our hope is that most folks will attend more than one event as speakers, auditors or participants.


January 18 — Campus Conversation Series: Frankenstein, Science, Ethics: Questions for Our Own Time

5:30-7 p.m. | Cook Hall Living Room
Led by professor of biology Sandra Gilchrist, associate professor of Biochemistry Katherine Walstrom, and professor of philosophy Aron Edidin. This event is sponsored by the Andrew Mellon Foundation.  Space is extremely limited; please register here.

January 25 — Frankenstein at the Movies: “Frankenstein” (1931, from Universal Studios)

7 p.m. | Ringling College of Art & Design Academic Center Auditorium
Introductions by Ringling professor of art history and horror film expert Susan Doll. Originally the title referred to the good doctor who played God to create life out of stolen corpses. But, over time, the name “Frankenstein” has come to be associated with the monster. Karloff plays the Monster with great sensitivity despite the heavy makeup and without benefit of speech. With its expressionist cinematography by Arthur Edeson and makeup design by Jack Pierce, this film, directed by James Whale, is iconic in every sense of the word. “It’s alive” indeed.

February 8 — Frankenstein at the Movies: “The Curse of Frankenstein” (1957, from Hammer Studios)

7 p.m. |Ringling College of Art & Design Academic Center Auditorium
Introductions by Ringling professor of art history and horror film expert Susan Doll. Hammer Studio was to the horror genre in the 1950s what Universal was in the 1930s. Hammer reinvented the look of the major monsters and interpreted the genre in color, using red to its best advantage. This film, directed by Terence Fisher, was the studio’s first film in color and the inaugural title in their Frankenstein series. It established Hammer films as a distinctive brand of gothic horror.

February 15 — Campus Conversation Series: Frankenstein and Genesis: Birth and Faith

5:30-7 p.m. | Cook Hall Living Room
Led by professor of Judaic studies and Klingenstein chair Susan Marks. This event is sponsored by the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

February 22 — Frankenstein at the Movies: “Young Frankenstein” (1974)

7 p.m. |Ringling College of Art & Design Academic Center Auditorium
Introductions by Ringling professor of art history and horror film expert Susan Doll. Funnyman Mel Brooks’ affectionate parody of the Universal horror films is as visually rich as the original. Gene Wilder stars as Dr. Franken-STEEN who can’t quite accept his family’s legacy until he returns to the old home place. Most of the lab equipment
used as props in this film was created for the original 1931 classic. To further evoke the Universal universe, Brooks shot his film in black and white, employed 1930s-style opening credits, and used scene transitions such as irises, wipes, and long fades to black.

March 1 — New Music New College: Artists’ Conversation

5 p.m. | ACE Lounge
A Monstrous Mash-up: led by professor of music Steve Miles, speaking on John Cage’s work and processes; and professor of English and Humanities Division Chair Miriam Wallace, speaking on Origins and Transformations of Frankenstein.

March 4 — New Music New College: It’s Alive! A Monstrous Circus on Frankenstein

8 p.m. | Koski Plaza ($15/ Free for students, faculty and staff)
A performance of John Cage’s “Circus On ___” organized around Frankenstein. Cage’s instructions for a textually-based performance piece that combines recorded and live sound, created mesostics based on a core text and found sounds related to locations and sounds in that text, can be linked to a print work of the performers’ choice. Buy tickets online here.

In January 2017, students working through ISP studied the novel and also created the mesostics, identified locations in the novel that could be linked to sound, and identified soundscapes in the novel.

March 13 — New Topics: O Mother, What Art Thou? O Mother, Where Art Thou? Frankenstein at 200

5:30 p.m. | Sainer Pavilion
Speaker: Professor Marilyn Francus, West Virginia University
In 1818, 17-year old pregnant Mary Shelley (daughter of the famous Mary Wollstonecraft, who died within days of Mary’s birth), fashioned a motherless monster in her novel, “Frankenstein.” This maternal absence let Shelley sidestep one of the era’s conventions — the monstrous mother — only to settle into the era’s alternative: the idealized, dead mother. Professor Francus, author of “Monstrous Motherhood,” will discuss how Frankenstein and the conventions of motherhood that shaped Shelley’s novel endure and continue to shape our notions of motherhood today. Reserve your seats online here.

March 15 — Campus Conversation Series: Frankenstein in the Classroom

5:30-7 p.m. | Cook Hall Living Room
Featuring New College students. This event is sponsored by the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

March 29 — Frankenstein at the Movies: “Gods and Monsters”

7 p.m. |Ringling College of Art & Design Academic Center Auditorium
Introductions by Ringling professor of art history and horror film expert Susan Doll. Haunting in a different way than a conventional horror film, “Gods and Monsters,” directed by Bill Condon, tells the story of an aging James Whale at the end of his life. Whale, who directed “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein,” created the concept of the sympathetic monster. Apparently, Whale related to Frankenstein’s Monster as the other—the perpetual outsider who exists on the margins of the normal world but who will never truly belong. The title comes from a line in “Bride of Frankenstein,” in which the character Dr. Pretorius toasts, “To a new world of gods and monsters!”

March 31 — Write-a-thon: Game-Jam on Frankenstein

10 a.m. to 8 p.m. | College Hall Music Room
Join Ringling professor of creative writing Rick Dakan and friends for this marathon workshop that teaches students and community members how to write viable computer game narratives, with a focus on Frankenstein of course! The last hour participants present their work — come to write or just show up for the good stuff at the end!

April 26-29 — Performance

April 26-28 at 7:30 p.m., April 29 at 2:30 p.m. | Black Box Theater
New College students are working with adjunct associate professor of theater Andrei Malaev-Babel to create a dramatic text for performance, based on Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”