Civilizing the Monster: Romantic Longings in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”

Friday, 8 December 2017, 5:30-7:30, at CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue,
Martin Segal Theatre, 1st floor.

Mary Shelley’s classic 1818 novel began as a late-night parlor game with her husband, the poet Percy Shelley, her stepsister Claire Clairmont, the poet Lord Byron, and Byron’s doctor John Polidori, centering on who could write the best horror tale. Since then, Shelley’s novel has been adapted to stage and film and has generated innumerable interpretations. The story of the scientist Victor Frankenstein and his ill-conceived effort to create a human-like monster has been read as a parable of science gone awry, a critique of Romanticism, a contribution to the tradition of “female gothic,” an autobiographical narrative of tormented creation (Mary’s mother Mary Wollstonecraft died giving birth to Mary), a Miltonic tale of “God-like” man, and as an allegory of overreaching industrial ambition. Mary Shelley’s mythic text will be discussed through its many interpretations and its distinct language and style, addressing its repercussion on several disciplines. Dreamlike and nightmarish scenarios, represented in works by Romantic composers from Schubert to Strauss, will be examined in connection with similar literary techniques in Frankenstein and in reference to the several attempts by the Creature to humanize and civilize himself.

Prof. Nancy Yousef
Professor of English at The Graduate Center and Baruch College, CUNY

James Melo
ERC Musicologist and Senior Editor at RILM Abstracts of Music Literature,
CUNY Graduate Center


Presented by the Ensemble for the Romantic Century in partnership with the Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, in connection with ERC theatrical concert, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. For more information on ERC theatrical concerts, visit http:\\