Afternoon with the Monster: 200 Years of Frankenstein

Posted on March 9, 2018

by Rebecca S

Originally published anonymously on January 1, 1818, the legend of how Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley first conceived of “Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus” is as famous as the Monster it immortalized.

The History of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein

The Story Goes . . .

On a dark, stormy night in 1816, Mary, her lover (and later husband) Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont were visiting Lord Byron in Switzerland. Byron, looking for amusement, challenged his guests to write a ghost story. Mary, unable to think of a story became anxious until one evening, the discussions turned to the possibility of the re-animation of human flesh and galvanism. It was after midnight when the group retired. Mary, unable to sleep, became possessed by her imagination as she confronted the grim terrors of her waking dream. Shelley would spend the next several months bringing to life her dream in two notebooks, revising until her tale of horror was complete. From those two notebooks came two centuries of adaptations and reimaginings.

The Transformation of a Monster . . .

As early as 1823, when Richard Brinsley Peake’s “Presumption, or the Fate of Frankenstein,” was staged, the modern image of Frankenstein’s Monster was beginning to take form. By the time Boris Karloff appeared on-screen in the iconic 1931 version, the transformation of Shelley’s Monster into pop culture fodder was complete. “Frankenstein” has spawned thousands of spin-offs, ranging from warnings on the dangers of science, to cult movie classics about cross-dressing aliens, to “Frankenstein vs. Godzilla” (yes, it is a real thing). Victor Frankenstein, the once complex and tortured genius, became a mad scientist; his Monster went from a French-speaking, poetry-reading, self-taught creature to a grunting, groaning killer Monster. This is the Frankenstein most of us first meet in the darkness of the movie theater, or if you are a child of the 70s and 80s – on the side of a cereal box.

200 Years and Counting . . .

2018 marks the two hundredth anniversary of the publication of Shelley’s original manuscript of “Frankenstein” and to celebrate the Toledo Lucas County Public Library invites you to spend An Afternoon with a Monster. University of Toledo Masters of Literature Student, Joe Heifenescher, will talk about the literary “Frankenstein,” followed by a showing of Mel Brook’s comedy classic, “Young Frankenstein.”:

An Afternoon with the Monster
Mar. 31, 2018 | 1:00 p.m. | Main Library, McMaster Center

Need help getting into that Frankenstein state of mind? Check out these materials for some inspiration.

Books About and Inspired by Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein
Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus: The Original Two-Volume Novel of 1816-1817

Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus: The Original Two-Volume Novel of 1816-1817” by Mary Shelley

Working from the earliest surviving draft of Frankenstein, Charles E. Robinson presents two versions of the classic novel—as Mary Shelley originally wrote it and a subsequent version clearly indicating Percy Shelley’s amendments and contributions.

For the first time we can hear Mary’s sole voice, which is colloquial, fast-paced, and sounds more modern to a contemporary reader. We can also see for the first time the extent of Percy Shelley’s contribution—some 5,000 words out of 72,000—and his stylistic and thematic changes. His occasionally florid prose is in marked contrast to the directness of Mary’s writing. Interesting, too, are Percy’s suggestions, which humanize the monster, thus shaping many of the major themes of the novel as we read it today. In these two versions of Frankenstein we have an exciting new view of one of literature’ s greatest works.

Frankenstein: The First Two Hundred Years by Christopher Frayling

Frankenstein: The First Two Hundred Years” by Christopher Frayling

On New Year’s Day 1818, Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein was first published in an anonymous three-volume edition of 500 copies. Some thought the book was too radical in its implications; a few found the central theme intriguing; no-one predicted its success.

Since then, there have been many, many adaptations―120 films alone, at the last count―on screen, stage, in novels, comics and graphic novels, in advertisements and even on cereal packets. From a Regency nightmare, Frankenstein became a cuddly childhood companion. This book, celebrating the 200th birthday of Frankenstein, traces the journey of Shelley’s Frankenstein from limited-edition literature into the bloodstream of contemporary culture.

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein: A Novel by Peter Ackroyd

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein: A Novel” by Alison Gaylin

When two nineteenth-century Oxford students—Victor Frankenstein, a serious researcher, and the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley—form an unlikely friendship, the result is a tour de force that could only come from one of the world’s most accomplished and prolific authors.

This haunting and atmospheric novel opens with a heated discussion, as Shelley challenges the conventionally religious Frankenstein to consider his atheistic notions of creation and life. Afterward, these concepts become an obsession for the young scientist. As Victor begins conducting anatomical experiments to reanimate the dead, he at first uses corpses supplied by the coroner. But these specimens prove imperfect for Victor’s purposes. Moving his makeshift laboratory to a deserted pottery factory in Limehouse, he contacts the Doomsday men—the resurrectionists—whose grisly methods put Frankenstein in great danger as he works feverishly to bring life to the terrifying creature that will bear his name for eternity.

Filled with literary lights of the day such as Bysshe Shelley, Godwin, Lord Byron, and Mary Shelley herself, and penned in period-perfect prose, The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein is sure to become a classic of the twenty-first century.

Frankenstein: How a Monster Became an Icon

Frankenstein: How a Monster Became an Icon” by Sidney Perkowitz

The tale of a tormented creature created in a laboratory began on a rainy night in 1816 in the imagination of a nineteen-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, newly married to the celebrated Romantic poet Percy Shelley. Since its publication two years later, in 1818, Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus has spread around the globe through every possible medium and variation. Frankenstein has not been out of print once in 200 years. It has appeared in hundreds of editions, perhaps more than any other novel. It has inspired a multitude of stage and screen adaptations, the latest appearing just last year.

“Frankenstein” has become an indelible part of popular culture, and is shorthand for anything bizarre and human-made; for instance, genetically modified crops are “Frankenfood.”Conversely, Frankenstein’s monster has also become a benign Halloween favorite. Yet for all its long history, Frankenstein’s central premise—that science, not magic or God, can create a living being, and thus these creators must answer for their actions as humans, not Gods—is most relevant today as scientists approach creating synthetic life.

The New Annotated Frankenstein

The New Annotated Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, Edited by Leslie S. Klinger

“Remarkably, a nineteen-year-old, writing her first novel, penned a tale that combines tragedy, morality, social commentary, and a thoughtful examination of the very nature of knowledge,” writes best-selling author Leslie S. Klinger in his foreword to The New Annotated Frankenstein. Despite its undeniable status as one of the most influential works of fiction ever written, Mary Shelley’s novel is often reductively dismissed as the wellspring for tacky monster films or as a cautionary tale about experimental science gone haywire. Now, two centuries after the first publication of Frankenstein, Klinger revives Shelley’s gothic masterpiece by reproducing her original text with the most lavishly illustrated and comprehensively annotated edition to date.

Featuring over 200 illustrations and nearly 1,000 annotations, this sumptuous volume recaptures Shelley’s early nineteenth-century world with historical precision and imaginative breadth, tracing the social and political roots of the author’s revolutionary brand of Romanticism.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: A Dark Graphic Novel Adaptation by Sergio A. Sierra

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: A Dark Graphic Novel” adaptation by Sergio A. Sierra

A graphic novel adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic tale of a monster, assembled by a scientist from parts of dead bodies, who develops a mind of his own as he learns to loathe himself and hate his creator.
Monster: A Novel of Frankenstein by Dave Zeltserman

Monster: A Novel of Frankenstein” by Dave Zeltserman

The supernatural, unmissable new novel by the ALA Best Horror award nominee. In nineteenth-century Germany, one young man counts down the days until he can marry his beloved . . . until she is found brutally murdered, and the young man is accused of the crime. Broken on the wheel and left for dead, he awakens on a lab table, transformed into an abomination. Friedrich must go far to take his revenge –only to find his tormentor, Victor Frankenstein, in league with the Marquis de Sade, creating something much more sinister deep in the mountains. Paranormal and gripping in the tradition of the best work of Stephen King and Justin Cronin, “Monster” is a gruesome parable of control and vengeance, and an ingenious tribute to one of literature’s greatest.

The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein by Dorthy & Thomas Hoobler

The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein” by Dorthy & Thomas Hoobler

Traces the lesser-known literary origins of the “Frankenstein” classic, describing how Mary Shelley, along with a team of famous contemporaries, was challenged in 1816 by the poet Lord Byron to a ghost story competition.

Movies Inspired by Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein
Young Frankenstein: A Mel Brooks Book by Mel Brooks and Rebecca Keegan

Young Frankenstein: A Mel Brooks Book: The Story of the Making of the Film” by Mel Brooks and Rebecca Keegan

Mel Brooks’ own words telling all about the players, the filming, and studio antics during the production of this great comedy classic. The book is alive and teeming with hundreds of photos, original interviews, and hilarious commentary.

“Young Frankenstein” was made with deep respect for the craft and history of cinema-and for the power of a good schwanzstucker joke. This picture-driven book, written by one of the greatest comedy geniuses of all time, takes readers inside the classic film’s marvelous creation story via never-before-seen black and white and color photography from the set and contemporary interviews with the cast and crew.

Young Frankenstein - movie directed by Mel Brooks on DVD

Young Frankenstein” a Mel Books Film

Director: Mel Brooks
Rating: PG
Genres: Comedy | Horror-Comedy | Parody/Spoof

Respected medical lecturer Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) learns that he has inherited his infamous grandfather’s estate in Transylvania. Arriving at the castle, Dr. Frankenstein soon begins to recreate his grandfather’s experiments with the help of servants Igor (Marty Feldman), Inga (Teri Garr) and the fearsome Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman). After he creates his own monster (Peter Boyle), new complications ensue with the arrival of the doctor’s fiancée, Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn).

Victor Frankenstein - movie staring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe

Victor Frankenstein” by Twentieth Century Fox

Director: Paul McGuigan
Rating: PG-13
Genres: Drama | Horror | Sci-Fi

Superstars James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe are electrifying in this action-packed thriller that breathes new life into the most famous horror tale of all time. Radical scientist Victor Frankenstein (McAvoy) and his trusted assistant Igor (Radcliffe) share a noble vision of aiding humanity through their groundbreaking research into immortality. But when Victor s experiments go too far, his obsession has terrifying consequences, and now only Igor can bring his friend back from the brink of madness… and save him from his monstrous creation!

Frankenstein DVD

Frankenstein” by Universal Pictures

Director: James Whale
Rating: Not rated
Genres: Drama | Horror | Sci-Fi

1931 movie staring Boris Karloff in the story of a human monster who gropes for his identity after having been created in a laboratory by Dr. Frankenstein.

The Bride of Frankenstein - 1935 film staring Boris Karloff by Universal Pictures

The Bride of Frankenstein” by Universal Pictures

Director: James Whale
Rating: Not rated
Genres: Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

This 1935 sequel to the classic horror film “Frankenstein” staring Boris Karloff.

Son of Frankenstein - 1939 movie staring Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi by Universal Studios

Son of Frankenstein” by Universal Studios

Director: Rowland V. Lee
Rating: Not rated
Genres: Drama | Horror | Sci-Fi

Praised by critics as one of the best of the Frankenstein series, the 1939 movie “Son of Frankenstein” stars Boris Karloff in the role that made him a screen legend, Basil Rathbone and Bela Lugosi.

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