November Selection: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

In November we will be reading Frankenstein, a selection by Burk. He provides the following information about his selection: —————————————————————-

I have selected Frankenstein by Mary Shelly for our November book discussion. When I arrived back east this summer at my dacha in the Taconic Mountains of upstate New York I found the following book on the table: Frankenstein and Philosophy – The Shocking Truth edited by Nicholas Michaud and published by Open Court in 2013. It was there as my son Christopher was the author of one of the chapters. I found it an interesting read and soon came to the realization I never had read Frankenstein but had seen a movie many years ago. Most of the authors of the various chapters of Michaud’s book did not have good words to say about the movie versions.
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About Ron Boothe

I am a retired professor of psychology living in Tacoma Washington USA.
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4 Responses to November Selection: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

  1. Burk Ketcham says:

    Here are some of my pump priming thoughts prior to our discussion on November 3rd. These are designed to get us up and running at the meeting and only scratch the surface.

    1. Frankenstein was written as a ghost story. But it was created by Mary Shelly during the “Age on Enlightenment” when natural science and its discoveries were becoming accepted as a way to improve the lot of humanity. Is it more science fiction than a ghost story? It also has been called a Gothic tragedy

    2. When I selected Frankenstein I had no idea that there were common themes joining Frankenstein and Moby-Dick. Interestingly, in Frankenstein we are soon on board a whaling ship bound for the north pole and an impossible northwest passage with a determined Captain Walton who states “What can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man?” Sound familiar? Soon Walton finds another man out there on the ice, Victor Frankenstein, pursing the monster created by Victor’s own resolve and secret will to “learn the hidden laws of nature” and create human life.

    3. We live in a technological culture where there is the belief, in many circles, that with enough effort and determination there could be scientific control over every human problem or desire. There are, however, those concerned, as exemplified by the case of Victor Frankenstein, that science may create that which may destroy us.

    In Frankenstein one issue is playing God in the creation of life. But I think most of us feel that life was not created by a God. We have created nuclear power. The scientists assured us that man could control it. But in Fukushima and elsewhere we learned that monsters still at large were let loose. Computers more intelligent than man are being touted. Digital monsters? Are there humanitarian limits as to where science should take us?

    4. The monster is portrayed as someone with superior intelligence and physical abilities. He proves to be a quick learner and is well read. His one desire, for intelligent friendship, is thwarted by human interactions at every turn, becomes a fiend and turns on his creator. If the monster was so smart why would it not have been possible for him to create a woman as a companion instead of forcing Frankenstein to do it against his will? Would a befriended happy monster of superior indigence be of benefit to humanity and not as Victor thought – a threat.

    5. On balance who is the monster in this story – Victor Frankenstein or the no name monster? Did Victor, a product of privilege, really care about society? Was Victor’s life a failure?

    Burk Ketcham

  2. dorsettrichard says:

    While Headed Elsewhere I Learned This (October 31, 2014)

    Do you ever read a novel like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and wonder why it took you so long to get to it? Frankenstein is fresh and it is still scary. My favorite moment is when Victor Frankenstein’s monster says to him, “I will be with you on your wedding night.” And you know nothing good will happen in that bridal chamber. Read Frankenstein for its story or roll forward to ponder modern science, like when Robert Oppenheimer considers his own monstrous creation and quotes the Bhagavad-Gita, “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” Yet here is Mary Shelley writing, long ago, “supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.” Mary Shelley is baffling.

    At 17 years old Mary eloped with the yet unknown Percy, and hung out with Lord Byron. When a group of them was at Lake Geneva, Byron challenged all to a ghost story competition. That is how Mary came to write Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus. The name Frankenstein will forever be better known than that of its author. But I am intrigued with Mary. How does such genius work? She is called ‘young and inexperienced.’ Young, yes; but inexperienced? I don’t think so. This is a woman who as a child hid behind her father’s sofa and heard Samuel Taylor Coleridge recite his Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It’s quite an education she must have had for something like Frankenstein to come forth in full bloom. Just a few years later she wrote The Last Man, a novel set in the 21st century. It’s on my reading list.

    I found a photo of Mary Shelley’s autograph, but that’ll never do, will it? I’m searching for the actual thing. No luck so far, but I did spot a first illustrated edition (third edition overall) of Frankenstein, from 1831. Thank you ebay and no, I don’t have the spare $8,000. But I likely would if I could. Wouldn’t you love to read from the original first edition? Well, maybe you wouldn’t. But I would. The 1831 edition is Mary’s final revision and mere photographs of the book’s cover evoke the story within. Soon it’ll be two hundred years since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. If you have not read the book, now is a good time to do so. Consider it your Halloween gift.

  3. dorsettrichard says:

    This is in Port Townsend, but keep an eye out. Robert Horton may be talking about his book in other venues. Dick

    Frankenstein (1931): A Special Event with Robert Horton
    Sun, 11/9 1:00
    Frankenstein (1931): A Special Event with Robert Horton
    Seattle film critic and Port Townsend Film Festival regular Robert Horton will talk about and sign copies of his new book “Frankenstein” (Columbia University Press) following a screening of James Whale’s classic 1931 film.

    Mr. Horton will offer an in-depth critical reading and discuss the way this cinematic Prometheus has generated countless sequels, remakes, rip-offs and parodies. From Mary Shelley’s source novel to the dubious I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, the mythology surrounding the story remains a powerful one even today.

    All tickets $10.

  4. Ron Boothe says:

    I just finished reading Burk’s copy of “Frankenstein and Philosophy”, edited by Nicolas Mighaud. The 27 chapters written by a variety of authors cover a wide variety of topics and issues related to Frankenstein and it makes for a fascinating read — I highly recommend it!

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