by Mary Shelley
Mary Shelly's Frankenstein Or, The Modern Prometheus
This classic novel is groundbreaking in many ways. First, it was the beginning of the modern horror genre and secondly, it was written by a very young woman with an interesting life, Mary Shelley. Many other similar monster stories have emerged since this was published in 1818, as well as various movie versions of the story.
At SJCPL and other Michiana libraries you’ll find many copies of our One Book selection, as well as companion novels and informational books, movies, and events throughout the five weeks beginning March 28th and continuing into May. We invite the entire community to read and discuss our selected title for 2014.
Our programming concerns many aspects of science and horror from grave-robbing to DNA testing, “horroragami” to repurposing discarded junk, and from medical ethics to electrical experiments. We will once again present our popular Trivia Night including a “monstrously” fun round of general knowledge questions, and our Edible Book Contest including creations with a monster theme.
Other special events include:
- A breakfast book discussion with Tricia Sloma and Hank Herreman
- Tea at Tippecanoe Place with a dramatic portrayal by Mary Ann Moran
- The taping of Dinner and a Book in the WNIT studio
- A presentation of National Theatre Live: Frankenstein at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, Browning Cinema
We would like to thank all of our Michiana libraries, schools, book clubs, media outlets, organizations, and businesses for joining and supporting us as we celebrate One Book, One Michiana!
Download the booklet & additional programs PDFs for a complete list of One Book, One Michiana programs. Then, view our
calendar of events for more information or to sign up for the program of your choice.
About the Author
"There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand." ~ Mary Shelley
We all know the story: a revolting Monster pieced together from disparate human parts and brought to life by Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Rejected by everyone he encounters, the Monster takes revenge and is then hunted by his own creator.
In contrast the young author, Mary Shelley, is described by her father as very pretty with “considerable talent;” a bookish person who believed “we are sent here to educate ourselves,” yet was prone to “formation of castles in the air.” Surrounded by the great minds of the day, including poets William Coleridge and most famously Lord Byron and her lover, then husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary found many opportunities for intellectual stimulation.
The origin of the story is legendary: An impressionable young 18-year-old accepts a house party challenge to create a ghost story. She struggles for an idea during a dismal, rainy weekend; then influenced by a discussion about the possibility of “galvanizing” a human creation with “vital warmth,” she awakes under a shining moon reflecting off beautiful Lake Geneva and its icy Alps with a mental vision “of a pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together.”
Over the next two years Mary would finish her story, publishing it anonymously in 1818. Until her death in 1851 at the age of 54 she would continue writing novels, biographical essays, and travelogues, in addition to publishing the first collected edition of her late husband’s poems.
Hers was an adventurous life during a time of philosophical awakening, spent with proponents of free love, travels across the continent, and many personal tragedies. Only one of her four children would survive, yet her iconic tale continues to haunt us nearly two hundred years later.
The early 19th century was not a particularly good time to be a female writer. Contemporary wisdom held that no one would be willing to read the work of a woman, but the success and longevity of Frankenstein in literature and popular culture have disproved the theory.
Though Frankenstein is regarded as one of the first horror stories as well as one of the first science fiction novels, Shelley’s contemporaries regarded it as a serious novel of ideas. Frankenstein is also part of the Romantic and Gothic movements in literature, a form that was only just becoming popular in England at the time of its publication. The Gothic mode was a reaction against the humanistic, rationalist literature of The Age of Reason; one might say it was ushered in by the death of Keats, the English author with whom Romanticism is perhaps most closely associated.
Frankenstein might be seen as a compromise between the Gothic approach and the Romantic one: it addresses serious philosophical subjects in a fantastical manner. Though it confronts recognizable human problems, it can hardly be said to take place in a “rational,” comprehensible, recognizable natural world. Some critics have suggested that this tension between Gothic and Romantic literary modes echoes the philosophical tension that existed between Mary Shelley and her husband, the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Because prejudice against women writers was quite strong, Shelley determined to publish the first edition anonymously in 1818 and, despite critical reviews, achieved an almost immediate popular success. The second edition published in 1822 bears her name, but it is her revised 1831 edition that many choose to read and study.
The novel’s unprecedented success paved the way for some of the most prominent women writers of the nineteenth century, including George Eliot, George Sand, and the Bronté sisters. All of them owed Mary Shelley a literary debt. Without her work, a great many female authors might never have taken up their pens, might never have felt free to exhibit dark imagination, nor to engage in philosophical reflection. Without Shelley and the women whose work she made possible, English literature would be unquestionably the poorer.
Sponsors & Partners
SJCPL would like to thank all of our sponsors, partner libraries, and community participants! Together we make One Book, One Michiana an exciting, community-wide event and so share our love of literature with each other and future generations.
Friends of St. Joseph County Public Library
Indiana University Alumni Association, St. Joseph County Chapter
Hesburgh Libraries, University of Notre Dame
Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore
South Bend Area Genealogical Society
St. Joseph County Parks