Frankenstein Lightning Lecture Series

On October 29, 2021, the Literature Track hosted a pre-show event in conjunction with the K-State School of Music, Theatre, and Dance to introduce their performance of Austin Tichenor’s play adaptation of Frankenstein.

The Frankenstein Lightning Lecture Series featured four, ten-minute TED Talk-style presentations on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel by English Department faculty and graduate students.

As the highlights below reveal, this series of talks sheds light on Shelley’s text, which still electrifies readers’ imaginations 203 years after its monstrous creation.

Crosby Lightning Lecture_750x562

My talk sets out the immediate historical and philosophical context for Mary Shelley’s composition of Frankenstein. I also offer a discussion of the extant manuscript to highlight some of the key mis-assumptions about the famous novel.

 Mark Crosby, Associate Professor, “The Ghost Story Competition”

Young Lightning Lecture_750x562

From the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Tambora precipitating the “Year Without a Summer” that inspired Mary Shelley to compose her novel to the creature’s confrontation with Victor on the Mer de Glace, the environment is a specter that haunts the pages of Frankenstein. My talk explores the role of the natural world in Frankenstein and its wider implications for our present-day climatological crisis. 

 Spencer Young (M.A. ‘22), “The Climatological Frankenstein

Tung Lightning Lecture_750x562

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the role of the female is violently suppressed: the women in the novel are effectively silenced either by their male counterparts or by their untimely deaths; the female creature is destroyed before she gains sentience; and even nature itself is coded as a feminine object for the masculine gaze to “penetrate.”  My talk situates Frankenstein within the context of the feminist writings of Shelley’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, to examine the novel as a cautionary tale about the perils of denying female agency.

— Shirley Tung, Associate Professor, “The Feminist Origins of Frankenstein

Coffey Lightning Lecture_575x766

Frankenstein, a key precursor to the contemporary “body horror” genre, locates much of its horror within the physical body. First, the creature’s body itself is horrific; despite being made from “beautiful” features, it is monstrous and uncanny, generating fear by being “wrong.” Secondly, the creature’s experience of having a body is horrific, generating an existential dread of being othered from all of humanity, incapable of any substantial connection or reproduction. Additionally, the text’s anxiety over the monstrous birth of the creature, his potential bride, and any future potential offspring reflects Mary Shelley’s own traumatic experiences with childbirth. I propose that this context allows us to see a trajectory from Frankenstein to many contemporary feminist body horror texts, which use the genre to voice anxieties about female conditions and experiences.  

 Gabrielle Coffey (M.A. ‘22), “Frankenstein as Body Horror”

These Lightning Lectures are available for viewing through Zoom (enter passcode hy.0F&fF).

If you haven’t had the chance to watch K-State Theatre’s Frankenstein, you can still purchase tickets for the remaining performances:

Frankenstein Poster Performance Dates_575x862

 Shirley Tung, Associate Professor and Interim Literature Track Head

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