Since its publication two centuries ago, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has allowed each generation to find within it a reflection of their current hopes and fears. Over time, the novel has been read as a commentary on such issues as slavery, women’s rights, imperialism, Freudian psychology, education, gay identity, and of course, the perils and promise of scientific advances. Along with Frankenstein’s remarkable ability to renew itself for every age, we will also discuss why we owe the existence of Shelley’s novel to the eruption of a volcano, and why the film versions of the story have diverged so far from its author’s original conception.
Cates Baldridge is the Battell-Stewart Professor of English and American Literatures at Middlebury College, where he has taught for over thirty years. He has published books and articles on various literary works from the early nineteenth century to the present, and frequently assigns Frankenstein in his classes.