Sarah Cahalan '14 | January 10, 2019
Dr. Frankenstein’s big green monster always takes up a prominent place in society around Halloween, but in 2018, both monster and doctor (and the novel that inspired it all) zombie-walked their way into the mainstream all year long. Mary Shelley’s famous book turned 200 last year, and the bicentennial was celebrated in almost too many forms of media to count.
Frankenstein-themed articles, reports and special issues appeared everywhere from The New York Times to Parade. A Frankenstein musical — the latest in a long line — debuted off-Broadway and a Dr. F-inspired puppet show took the stage in Chicago. A Frankenstein-tinged subplot animated Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Netflix’s viral-hit Sabrina the Teenage Witch reboot. In the United Kingdom, a commemorative two-pound coin marked the book’s anniversary.
Unsurprisingly, universities got in on the anniversary action, too — and Notre Dame was the celebration’s beating, built-from-scratch heart.
“Operation Frankenstein” boasted a film and lecture series, a semester-long Special Collections exhibit, a new Frankenstein-themed class and an international conference on the novel held at the University’s global gateway property in Rome.
“There have been many conferences on Frankenstein this year, but I think ours was one of the most fun and engaging,” says Eileen Hunt Botting, professor of political theory and co-chair of Operation Frankenstein. One of the most appealing parts of the novel, Botting says, is how many fields of study can draw inspiration from it — from literature and political science to genetics, bioethics and even film studies. At many universities, the focus was singular, devoted to just one of the impacted fields. Notre Dame went broad, drawing scholars from anthropology, medicine, law, psychology, neuroscience, literature, history, film, philosophy and political science.
“The range of scholarship was impressive,” notes Botting, a scholar of the political thought of Shelley’s time, “and the risk-taking that came with that was as well.”
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