Another full house for Another Look’s bicentennial celebration of Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. And though the night was rainy, the audience was warm, intelligent, and enthusiastic. Although Frankenstein was a special two-hour session with four discussants, we barely scratched the surface of the aesthetic and moral dimensions of the novel. As promised, we focused on the book as a literary work: a flowering of the romantic imagination, as well as a pioneering landmark in science fiction. Though the Another Look director, Robert Pogue Harrison, had some penetrating observations about moral responsibility for invention in a technology age – we are all heirs of Victor Frankenstein, who abdicated responsibility and abandoned the creature he had created.
Dr. Audrey Shafer, a Stanford professor and anesthesiologist on the steering committee for Frankenstein@200 campus-wide events, made opening remarks, and presented the panelists with Frankenstein mugs, a keepsake for participation in the Stanford program. Robert Harrison moderated the discussion. He was joined by three panelists who have all taught Frankenstein at Stanford: French Prof. Dan Edelstein, Classics Prof. Andrea Nightingale, and former Stanford fellow Inga Pierson.
Another Look’s winter event on Frankenstein was part of Stanford’s year-long celebration of the bicentennial of the book’s 1818 publication, when the young author was twenty years old.
Her tale has proved timely, even prophetic, given our current concerns about artificial intelligence, animal-to-human transplants, and stem cells. Frankenstein explores role of conscience in creation, and asks: What does it mean to be human? Is it wise to play God? And don’t we all fear that our creative triumphs will turn against us, destroying us and those we love.
According to critic Harold Bloom, “The greatest paradox and most astonishing achievement of Mary Shelley’s novel is that the monster is more human than his creator. This nameless being, as much a modern Adam as his creator is a modern Prometheus, is more lovable than his creator and more hateful, more to be pitied and more to be feared, and above all able to give the attentive reader that shock of added consciousness in which aesthetic recognition compels a heightened realization of the self.”
Photos for the event were taken by our faithful Another Look fan David Schwartz.
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