Indiana Humanities has curated a selection of talks by experts in the sciences and humanities on various themes related to Frankenstein. These scholars are ready to come to your community and share fascinating insights and ideas about this remarkable book!

Most of the talks are approximately one hour, with about 45 minutes of presentation and 15 minutes for Q&A. Some speakers may use A/V, others may bring props, lead workshops or even give performances.

Would you like to invite a Frankenstein scholar to your community—for free? As part of One State / One Story: Frankenstein, Indiana Humanities has developed a Frankenstein Speakers Bureau full of intriguing talks about the contexts and themes of Mary Shelley’s groundbreaking work of science fiction. These Hoosier scholars provide fascinating insights into the text, ranging in topics from cinema to climate change, philosophy to poetry, disability to dinosaurs and more! See the full list of talks below.

Nonprofits interested in bringing a Frankenstein expert to their community to speak to a public audience can apply for funds to cover speaking fees as part of Indiana Humanities’ Frankenstein Speakers Bureau. Libraries, schools, museums/historical societies, community centers, art groups, prisons and other tax-exempt organizations are eligible to take part.

If you’re interested, review the info sheet. Applications are due Friday, July 6.

 

Apply Here

Frankenstein Speakers Bureau

IMPROVISING FRANKENSTEIN: BRINGING TO LIFE NEW STORIES OF DISABILITY
Jim Ansaldo, Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, Indiana University
jansaldo@indiana.edu / 812-361-0133 / Photo

Frankenstein is a reflection of how we think about, respond to, and ultimately create disability as individuals and communities. How different would the story have been if Victor Frankenstein and the villagers had reacted to the “creature” not with fear and violence, but with “yes and” and “got your back”? In this participatory, thoughtful, and fun session, we’ll use improv -- the art of making things up on the spot -- to explore these ideas and co-create new stories of disability that represent our highest aspirations. This session can be customized for a variety of audiences, including teens and grade school students.

STITCHED AND BOUND: FRANKENSTEIN AND THE BOOK
Rebecca Baumann, Curator of the The Lilly Library, Indiana University
rbaumann@indiana.edu / 812-340-3097 / Photo

Unlike the creature brought to life by Victor Frankenstein, the first edition of Frankenstein is not a freak. Rather, it appears to be a typical novel of its time, three volumes bound in plain boards, published without the nineteen-year-old author’s name on its title page. But the story of Frankenstein’s publication and the history of its readership over the past two centuries is just as exciting as Mary Shelley’s novel. This talk examines not only the birth of the novel but also its reception, emphasizing how physical formats changed the way readers have understood the story of the monster within.

FRANKENSTEIN AND JURASSIC PARK: TWO TALES OF SCIENCE FICTION AND IMAGINATION
Cassandra Bausman, Assistant Professor of English, Trine University
bausmanc@trine.edu / 309-312-0179 / Photo

Frankenstein and Jurassic Park share several intriguing themes, including the ethics of scientific process; the commercialization of scientific achievement; and the interplay of power, control, and respect for the natural world. This talk by Dr. Cassandra Bausman will explore these comparisons and consider how both stories help us think about the exciting yet potentially difficult relationship between scientific progress and imagination. Examining these Promethean tales celebrates Frankenstein’s remarkable staying-power and suggests that storytelling and science both share the centrality of imaginative vision, from Shelley’s groundbreaking work and Crichton’s juggernaut to Spielberg’s cinematic mastery.

FOLLOWING FRANKENSTEIN: DEFINING MEDICAL HUMANITIES WITH ONE CLASSIC TEXT
Emily Beckman, Director of Medical Humanities Program, IUPUI
embeckma@iupui.edu / 317-274-4755 / Photo

In this talk, we examine the role of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as the foundational text defining the field of Medical Humanities.  More so than any other, Frankenstein embodies the interdisciplinary nature of medical humanities and requires us to not only identify the various disciplines of which it is comprised, but more importantly to articulate the disciplinary interactions and their effect on the interplay of science, medicine, art and humanity.  The text, written 200 years ago, prompts consideration of the role of science in human development, medical treatment and complex decision making as well as questioning what it really means to be human.  Shelley’s text addresses important ethical issues inherent in scientific research and progress.  It serves as a leaping off point for rigorous ethical analysis and deliberation requiring us to consider the history of science as well as its potential future.  In addition, we must explore various representations of the human form from artistic, historical, scientific and pop culture perspectives and most importantly, our response to them. Through a close, careful reading of the primary literary text in its entirety and a collection of companion readings from various disciplinary perspectives, we equip ourselves to raise and even address questions concerning the history of eugenics, genetic manipulation, beginning and end-of-life, organ transplantation, human cloning, artificial intelligence and precision medicine.  In so doing, not only do we develop a comprehensive understanding of medical humanities, but we do so through the intense scrutiny of a classic literary text.  We will discuss how through the lens of literary analysis, philosophical examination and an understanding of the history of medicine, Frankenstein comes to life 200 years after its first publication to exquisitely define the field and our future.

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE QUESTION OF CHILDREN’S RIGHTS AFTER GENETIC ENGINEERING
Eileen Botting, Professor of Political Science, University of Notre Dame
ehunt@nd.edu / 574-514-0993 / Photo

Prominent critics and skeptics of genetic engineering have treated the ethical issue of genetic engineering of children as if it were still science fiction, like the artificially made creature imagined in Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein. After surveying the history of making genetically modified (GM) children through three-person in vitro fertilization since the late 1990s, Dr. Botting sketches a framework for a theory of the rights of the GM children made from heritable biotechnological interventions in the human genome. The hard question is no longer, “Should science genetically engineer children?” but rather, “What are the rights of the GM child?”

FRANKENSTEIN AT WAR: NAMING THE MONSTROSITY OF MILITARISM, 1880-1919
Norma Erickson, Independent Scholar
nerickson@imhm.org / 317-965-0670 / Photo

Often, the idea of Victor Frankenstein’s inhuman monster has served as a metaphor for the terrifying unintended consequences of technology gone awry. Whereas today Frankenstein is often understood as a parable about bioengineering or the potential dangers of genetic engineering, a century ago people used Frankenstein imagery to grapple with the technological threat posed by the arms race. Frankenstein gave a name and a body to the horrific development of militarism and nationalism then careening out of control. Ms. Erickson will examine propaganda posters, sermons, speeches and letters to newspapers that used the idea of Frankenstein—both the creator and the created—to portray a soulless monster bent on destruction and discuss possible parallels in our present-day world.

FRANKENSTEIN: HUMAN LIMITS AND HUMAN POSSIBILITIES
Richard Gunderman, Chancellor’s Professor of Radiology, Pediatrics, Medical Education, Philosophy, Liberal Arts, Philanthropy, Medical Humanities and Health Studies, Indiana University rbgunder@iu.edu / 317-948-6302 / Photo

From the Bible’s Tower of Babel to the Greek myth of Prometheus to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Western literature brims with insights into the importance of recognizing human limitations. Specifically, Frankenstein illuminates the limits of natural science, technology and knowledge itself as means of enhancing human life. By examining these limitations, we can more deeply understand our own nature and what it takes to make the most of our human potential.

FRANKENSTEIN’S LEADERSHIP MONSTER
Richard Gunderman, Chancellor’s Professor of Radiology, Pediatrics, Medical Education, Philosophy, Liberal Arts, Philanthropy, Medical Humanities and Health Studies, Indiana University rbgunder@iu.edu / 317-948-6302 / Photo

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein offers one of the most compelling portraits in the English language of leadership gone seriously wrong. Through its portrayal of catastrophic leadership failures, it provides engaging and memorable insights into the callings that an effective leader needs to answer and steps each of us can take to enhance our leadership effectiveness.

FRANKENSLAM: WHERE THE POETRY IS ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE!
Adam Henze, Poet and Doctoral Candidate, Indiana University
adhenze@indiana.edu / 812-499-6863 / Photo

This poetic celebration begins with a hybrid lecture and performance, bringing monstrous poems to life by John Keats, Margaret Atwood, Jericho Brown, Wendell Berry, and more. After exploring Shelley’s influence on rock and hip hop culture, participants are invited to create their own “horrorcore poem” in an interactive writing workshop. Echoing Byron’s ghost story challenge, the session concludes with a Frankenslam, where all are invited to share their poetic creations on the mic.

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE YEAR WITHOUT A SUMMER
Jason Kelly, Department of History and Arts & Humanities Institute, IUPUI
jaskelly@iupui.edu / 317-274-1698 / Photo

In this presentation, Dr. Kelly weaves together the histories of science, art, literature and politics to tell a global story about Mary Shelley’s masterpiece. Moving from the battlefields of Napoleonic Europe to the volcanoes of the Pacific to the riverbanks of the Yangtze to the farmlands of North America, attendees will see how Frankenstein reveals close ties between these seemingly disparate places and they will learn how the world within the novel is itself a product of these global connections.

MONSTER KIDS: HOW FRANKENSTEIN SHAPED THE POP CULTURE LANDSCAPE
Greg Kishbaugh, Author of Bone Welder, a modern-day continuation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
gregkishbaugh@gmail.com / 317-306-1060 / Photo

The Frankenstein Monster has loomed large over our collective imaginations and has had an epic stranglehold on pop culture for decades. This presentation, non-academic and geared toward all audiences, of all ages, looks at The Monster’s rise from the pages of Mary Shelley’s seminal book through the atmospheric Universal movies, to television, theater, comic books, toys and more. It examines the ways in which an entire generation of children obsessed with the macabre — the so-called Monster Kids — grew into some of the most influential shapers of modern pop entertainment. 

Kishbaugh, a Monster Kid through and through, shares his own personal remembrances of growing up with The Monster, how it shaped his world view and those of many other creators, and ultimately led him to write his Frankenstein novel, Bone Welder.

 

THE SCIENCE AND THE FICTION IN MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN
Monique Morgan, Associate Professor of English, Indiana University
mormorga@indiana.edu / 812-360-9870 / Photo

This talk discusses two important influences on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: early-nineteenth-century science and previous works of literature. Victor Frankenstein’s desire to master nature echoes the way chemist Humphry Davy described the powers of modern science. Victor’s goal – to “infuse a spark of being” into lifeless matter – is indebted to Erasmus Darwin’s theories of spontaneously generated life, and to Luigi Galvani’s demonstrations of electricity producing motion in dead animals. The creature’s experiences bring to life David Hume’s thought experiment about the need to learn even the simplest ideas from careful observation. The novel repeatedly gestures toward John Milton’s Paradise Lost and to William Godwin’s novels and philosophy, and Mary Shelley responds their ideas about creation, parenting, free will, and oppression. By thinking about these contexts, we’ll better understand how the novel was grounded in the science and literature of its time, and why Frankenstein continues to raise important and complex questions about science and society.

SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN: WHY HONOR AND WILL MATTER
Jamey Norton, Professor of English, Marian University
jnorton@marian.edu / 317-955-6396 / Photo

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein explores two key concepts of human life and culture: honor and will. How does the human will work in making honorable decisions for ethical actions? What impact does choosing honor, or refusing it, have on the social order of science and religion? In taking up these questions Shelley plunged her characters Victor Frankenstein and his monster into a vast philosophical and political debate involving thinkers ranging from her mother, the political radical Mary Wollstonecraft, to the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer on issues of how honor and the will to live shape the human condition and human destiny. The questions of honor and will that Frankenstein raised two centuries ago are highly relevant for our own times.

HOW FRANKENSTEIN HELPS US MAKE SENSE OF GLOBAL WARMING
George Phillips, Assistant Professor of English, Franklin College
gphillips@franklincollege.edu / 317-738-8241 / Photo

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when Europeans were deeply concerned with climate change—though they worried about global cooling, not warming. Then as now, climate change sparked a reconsideration of the question of what it means to be human and what form of humanity could survive in a world transformed. In this talk, Dr. Phillips will draw connections between two eras of climate change, with a look at how Shelley’s appeals to reason and emotion reflect the ways we talk about climate science today.

A VISIT WITH MARY SHELLEY
Adrienne Provenzano, Independent Educator and Performer
adrienneprovenzano@yahoo.com / 317-954-5211

This one-woman event is a unique opportunity to meet Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein. Learn about Shelley’s life, love, and losses and how she transformed her experiences into her art. In this dynamic portrayal by Provenzano considers the creative process in depth, comparing different versions of and putting Shelley’s life as a 19th-century literary woman into historical context. Shelley also converses with the audience members on how creative expression plays a role in their lives.

What Frankenstein Read: Lessons on Education from Mary Shelley’s Classic Novel
Kyoko Takanashi, Associate Professor of English, Indiana University South Bend
ktakanas@iusb.edu /574-520-4802 / Photo

As one of the most adapted novels of all time, Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, has become famous for featuring a man-made “monster.”  But who created this monster and why?  Shelley’s classic novel portrays various characters with diverse educational experiences to show the dangers of a misguided educational agenda – especially the threatening consequences of scientific achievement unaccompanied by reflections on humanity and society.  Fortunately, reading the novel closely can give us hints about what a well-rounded education might look like.  Interweaving discussions of the novel with historical insights about science, education, and culture, this lecture aims to prompt reflection and discussion about the lessons that Frankenstein can teach us–as parents, as educators, and as engaged community members–about educating our children and students today.

IT’S ALIVE! ELECTRICITY, CINEMA AND METAPHOR IN FRANKENSTEIN
Matthew Weedman, Assistant Professor of Art, Wabash College
weedmanm@wabash.edu / 765-361-6203 / Photo

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was sparked from amazing tales of galvanization, re-animating human tissue with man’s burgeoning power to wield electricity and excite a world barreling towards industrialization. Professor Weedman’s presentation will examine how the invention of electricity birthed the interconnected lives of Frankenstein and cinema as well as how this promethean symbol has evolved through film and proven itself critical to a society increasingly reliant on technology. We will discuss this history through images, clips and humorous tales of wild ambition.