by Cristina Shannon
In 1818, Mary Shelley published Frankenstein. Born from a ghost story crafted in response to a parlor game, Shelley’s novel has remained immensely relevant 200 years later. In celebration of this anniversary, members of SJSU, Santa Clara University, and the University of San Francisco have spent this year bringing several themed events to the Bay Area. This fall, the Frankenstein Bicentennial continues with events located at the Hammer Theatre in downtown San José, an extension of the SJSU College of Humanities & the Arts.
Frankenstein@200 Kicks Off at the Hammer!
Frankenstein Panel Discussion – Monster or Creature?
On September 18th, the Frankenstein@200 series kicked off the fall season with the Frankenstein Panel Discussion. This event featured talks from SJSU President Dr. Mary A. Papazian, Dr. Anand Vaidya, and Dr. Adrienne Eastwood, and was moderated by Jonathan Gill. Dean Shannon Miller of the College of Humanities and the Arts at SJSU introduced the panel with a brief history of the novel’s origin.
Dr. Papazian began the lecture with an analysis of the creature through the frame of Early Modernism, drawing comparisons between the characters in Paradise Lost and the creature.
“Paradise Lost was one of the most important pieces of literature for the creature as he learned about the world in which he had come into being,” Papazian began. “Like Adam and Eve, he is created outside of the natural process. But where God created mankind out of love, Victor created the creature out of pride.” She further illustrated this point by delving more into the creature’s feelings as he read the novel.“Frankenstein’s creature really moves in the course of the novel from identifying with Adam and Eve to seeing himself identified as Satan….he recognized that like Adam, he had come forward as a perfect creature of God, but when he came forward, no longer innocent, he realized with experience, that he was in fact like Satan.”
Dr. Vaidya, a professor of history and philosophy at SJSU, focused on a comparison of what he calls the “Phenomenal Zombie” vs the “Moral Zombie”. He describes a phenomenal zombie as “something that is just like you, in every single sense, except one—it doesn’t have any phenomenal consciousness.” Vaidya then introduces the philosophical idea of panpsychism, the view that consciousness is a universal feature of all things. “The idea is that, to a certain degree, everything is conscious, and because everything is conscious, everything has a claim to justice. So the monster has the right to ask Frankenstein to create a bride for him because he’s in the realm of moral persons. Why is he a moral person? Because he is a conscious being. Why is he a conscious being? Because everything is conscious.”
Dr. Eastwood, a professor of English at SJSU, explored the homosocial relationships between the men in the novel and the absence of female companionship. Instead, Nature is given female characteristics throughout the novel. “When it comes to themes of science and discovery, nature is described as a feminine entity in relation to the masculine pursuit of obtaining knowledge,” Eastwood says. “Robert Walton is on an expedition of discovery, hoping to find a way to ‘pierce the ice with his little boat’ in order to get through to the warmer waters and other countries. Robert’s expedition serves as a metaphor for ambition and the relation of men in the story to the natural world.” Eastwood explains Victor’s own relation to nature and how he “characterizes his interest in the natural sciences in similar terms. Early in his story, he states ‘I have described myself as always having been imbued with a fervent longing to penetrate the secrets of nature.”
Frankenstein Coming to the Hammer
National Theatre Live – Frankenstein
In October, the Hammer Theatre will screen the National Theatre Live productions of Frankenstein, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternating the roles of Victor Frankenstein and his monster.
Frankenstein Goes to the Movies
On October 18th, the SJSU Department of Film & Theatre will present an evening of film and discussion. This event will host a variety of scholars and experts including Katherine D. Harris, Scott Fosdick, J. Todd Ormsbee, and Kirsten Brandt to discuss the wonder and legacy of Frankenstein in all forms of media.
The SJSU School of Music & Dance will bring H.K. Gruber’s Frankenstein!! to the Hammer stage. Gruber’s “pan-demonium” for chansonnier and orchestra balances the comic and the macabre in a 20th-century musical language. Gruber draws from a collection of poems from H.C. Artmann’s Allerleirausch: Neue Schöne Kinderreime (Noises, Noises, All Around: Lovely New Children’s Rhymes) to create a chaotic, musical narrative. Vocalist Eugene Brancoveanu will join the symphony orchestra to sing/narrate this spectacular performance.
Frankenstein: The Radio Play
This spooky production will mark the end of Frankenstein season at the Hammer Theatre. It will be performed to a live audience in the Hammer 4 on October 26th and recorded for broadcast. On October 31st, this recording will be broadcast on KSJS.
To learn more about the remaining Frankenstein events happening at the Hammer Theatre, check out the series page at hammertheatre.com/frankenstein-series-page/
Want More Frankenstein?
University of San Francisco FrankenFest
The University of San Francisco will host two panels discussing the intersections of Frankenstein, the social sciences, and the humanities.
Dissecting the Modern Man: Frankenstein Across the (Social) Sciences
Join USF Faculty (AI, Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Environmental Science) for an exploration of technology, innovation, humanity, and ethics across time and space through the lens of Mary Shelley’s seminal work, Frankenstein. This panel will explore the groundbreaking novel from the perspectives of psychology, the environment, artificial intelligence, and beyond, looking at the challenges posed by scientific advancement.
From Fire to Film: Frankenstein Across the Humanities
Join USF Humanities faculty (Classical Studies, Philosophy, Literature, Film Studies) for a discussion of the lurking presence of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein throughout intellectual traditions from antiquity to today. Drawing on the perspectives of philosophy, literature, classical mythology, and film, this panel will consider how a grotesque act of human creation quite literally raises from the dead age-old questions of morality, responsibility, and power.
To find even more Franken-themed events in the Bay Area, check out the dedicated blog, frankenenstein200yrs.wordpress.com