Although Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” was first published in 1818 when she was 21, the novel’s content remains relevant to audiences today. For that reason, “Frankenstein” has been chosen as the Common Reader for the 2012-2013 academic year at Fairmont State University. The project will be complemented by a Frankenstein Film Festival and other events throughout the year.
"Frankenstein" is a “tale of the scientist who succeeds in his ambition to create life, but then fails to nurture and educate his creature, thus creating a monster who wreaks havoc on all that he loves,” explained Dr. Deborah Nestor, Professor of English. “More than anything it is a novel about personal and social responsibility, how a child’s life experiences and education help create the individual he or she will become,” she added.
The novel was selected by the Common Reader Committee that included faculty and staff from different disciplines. “Everybody agreed that technology and our vexed relationship with technology is something that affects all of us,” said Dr. Angela Schwer, Professor of English.
The novel’s selection is intended to provide discussion among the many different disciplines at FSU.
“I really think that having a scientist talk about the science involved in the book and the medical background of organ transplant, organ donation and organ rejection, all of that is a valuable contribution to a student’s education,” Schwer said.
“The purpose of having this one book that everybody is reading is to give the campus an intellectual focus for the year. It is a common experience outside of classes, outside of our separate disciplines that we are all invested in and all exploring together in our different ways.”
Another big reason that this novel was chosen was because of the bio-ethics material it contains. “In a society where many people get hip replacements, knee replacements, organ donations… [it’s] the idea that you could take pieces of a dead body and create a new organism. This isn’t foreign to us at all,” Schwer said.
This project also allows students to discuss and think about the book from different perspectives through their different classes.
“They really stand to learn something if they do discuss the book in different classes. It’s really something we want to promote and encourage,” Schwer said.
The Common Reader project is not just about reading and classroom discussions. A Frankenstein Film Festival is also being planned. All of the movies will be shown in Multi-media Room A of the Ruth Ann Musick Library.
On Tuesday, Sept. 25, “Frankenstein” directed by James Whale in 1931 was shown from 6 to 7:30 p.m. He also directed, “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935), which was shown from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
Two more Frankenstein films will be shown during the spring semester. First, Mel Brooks’ 1974 movie “Young Frankenstein” will be shown on Feb. 25 from 6 to 8 p.m. On March 25, “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” directed by Kenneth Branagh in 1994, will be shown with a time to be announced later.
Staff members of the Ruth Ann Musick Library have compiled online resources for those who would like to participate in the Common Reader project. Several copies of “Frankenstein,” plus additional adaptations and related resources are available at the library. By going to http://guides.library.fairmontstate.edu/frankenstein, browsers can learn about the novel, the author, adaptations and spoofs and read analysis and commentary.
Other events will be added in the spring semester.
“The Theatre Department is planning a staged reading of a play based on the ‘Frankenstein’ story,” said Dr. Francene Kirk of the School of Fine Arts.
A marathon reading of the novel may also take place.
“I think this is an intellectual project that all of us can share, and developing our lives as well as developing our intellect is what higher education is all about. Read the book, it’s wonderful,” Schwer said.