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Dickinson College Celebrates 200th Anniversary of ‘Frankenstein’



Video by Joe O'Neill

National Frankenreads event comes to campus with read-athon, panel discussion and exhibition

With Halloween looming darkly on the horizon, readers are gearing up for Frankenreads, an international celebration of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The worldwide celebration of one of the most acclaimed horror novels of all time finishes off Frankenweek, which runs October 24-31, and Dickinson has its own slate of events.

“Frankenstein's mythic monster has entered our culture in the way that only the most powerful myths can do,” says Ashton Nichols, Professor of English & Environmental Studies and Walter E. Beach '56 Distinguished Chair in Sustainability Studies. “This nameless creature and his monstrous maker started out as a frightful image in the mind of the 18-year-old wife of the poet [Percy Bysshe] Shelley and have led to countless reanimations over the past two centuries.”

In fact, according to Romantic Circles, a peer-reviewed website dedicated to Romantic-period literature and culture between 1910 and 2005, no less than 75 feature films have been made across the globe featuring Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. And it’s also one of the most widely read books in college classes.

“That's in part because of its status as the first work of science fiction, and also because it appeals to literary types, science students—especially biology and chemistry—and to female readers, since Mary Shelley had such a remarkable life,” says Nichols. “I tell my students that if they have not completed the draft of a novel by that age, they are running behind schedule, especially if they aspire to literary greatness.”

Frankenreads is a project of the Keats-Shelley Association of America, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. At the center off the commemoration are public read-athons of the entire novel on Halloween Day 2018. At Dickinson, three events make up the celebration:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 30, 7-10 p.m.: A screening of Gods and Monsters will be held in Denny 317 with a panel discussion—with Assistant Professor of English and Film Studies Greg Steirer, Professor of Creative Writing and Writer-in-Residence Susan Perabo, Assistant Professor of English Sarah Kersh, and Nichols—and Q&A to follow.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 31, 3-4 p.m.: A reading of selections from Frankenstein will be held in the Fishbowl in Waidner-Spahr Library, with a reception to follow.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 31, 4-4:30 p.m.: A reception with refreshments will be held to officially open the exhibition Frankenstein: Sources, History, Influences in the Fishbowl (exhibit until November 14).

On Oct. 31, the Library of Congress will host a livestreamed public reading of the novel, beginning at 9 a.m. EDT, from its historic Main Reading Room, a first for that historic setting.


Published October 25, 2018