What Makes a "Monster"?
In 1818, when Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus was published for the first time, Mary Shelley could not have imagined the monster she was unleashing on the world. The creature in Shelley's novel is remarkably sympathetic and an eloquent speaker, capable of measured, intelligent, and articulate argument. But based on Boris Karloff’s 1931 film performance and confirmed by countless other films, comics, and illustrations, the general perception today is that Frankenstein’s creature is a “monster” who grunts or speaks—if he talks at all—in disjointed monosyllables.
Why has popular culture largely denied the creature his reasonable voice? This symposium brings together four scholars and the curator and bibliographer of The New York Public Library’s Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection to reflect on graphic and film representations of the “monster” from the past two centuries. The first half of the day will feature presentations on key visual adaptations of the creature, while the latter half will engage questions about what these appearances mean for understanding him as a political and historical subject.
Morning Session – ten o’clock
Opening remarks: Jay Barksdale and Stephanie DeGooyer
The Face of the Creature, 1818 - Today
Elizabeth Campbell Denlinger - Curator of the Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle
The Maker of the Monster: An Illustrated Biography of Mary Shelley
Charles Cuykendall Carter - Bibliographer of the Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle
The Creature in the (Cinematic) Machine
Paul Flaig - Comparative Literature, Cornell University
Afternoon Session – two o’clock
What Makes a ‘Monster?'
Susan Wolfson - Professor of English, Princeton University
A Monster’s Right to Have Rights
Stephanie DeGooyer - English, Cornell University and Scholar in Residence in the Library’s Wertheim Study
Autism and Articulation in Mary Shelley’s Novel and Beyond
Julia Miele Rodas - Assistant Professor of English, Bronx Community College of the City University of New York (CUNY)