Presentation on theme: "A Tale of two “steins” Ein...Franken... (creature)"— Presentation transcript:
A Tale of two “steins” Ein...Franken... (creature)
Cultural icon #1 Einstein A genius, benevolent and wise. Science dispelling ignorance and advancing prosperity. Origin of the universe, origin of life, origin of humans. Practical improvements in agriculture, biomedicine, new materials, energy sources, information society. Cultural icon #2 Frankenstein A monster, made by an evil genius. Technology gone awry, threatening new ways of death, destruction, and horror. Disenchantment of the world, total industrial war, nuclear madness. Monocultural agriculture; monsters of biotechnology; toxic materials, pollution of air, water, soil; energy insecurity, climate change, data smog, corrupting influence of TV and internet.
Mary Shelly and Percy Shelly Mary was sixteen and Percy was twenty-one, married, with two children. Their emotional involvement was so strong that Percy threatened suicide when faced with separation. In 1814 Percy abandoned his family, the Mary separated from her parents (both were intellectuals), and they fled to the continent. They are known to have traveled down the Rhine River. The summer of 1814 was dark and dreary all over Europe. Due to a volcanic eruption in Tambora, it was the “year without a summer.” Mary wrote “Frankenstein” as her entry in a ghost story competition. She was 20 years old and carrying Percy’s child when the book was published in 1817.
There is a real Castle Frankenstein Castle Frankenstein in Darmstadt overlooks the Rhine River near Frankfurt.
And there is a real person who is the basis of the Frankenstein myth Johann Konrad Dippel , German theologian and alchemist, whose interest in alchemy led him to search for the elixir of life and the philosopher's stone. It is said that he was interested in creating artificial life. He was also alleged to have practiced grave-robbing. Dippel was obsessed that he was on the verge of a scientific breakthrough and would conquer death itself. Dippel's Oil, a concoction of bones, blood, and other bodily fluids distilled in iron tubes and other alchemical equipment, was intended as the elixir of life. He offered his formulas to the king in exchange for Castle Frankenstein. It is said that Dippel signed his name "Frankenstein" after his place of residence.
Ancient Jewish story of the Golem In response to persecution, citizens of a small town beg the rabbi for help. Using esoteric knowledge, the rabbi animates a clay figure --a Golem -- for protection (a good and noble motive). Golem runs amuck, out of control, starts doing harm indiscriminately. Story is a model for the sort of fears that people have of very powerful technology that they don't understand, e.g. genetic engineering or nuclear power. Good intentions can have bad consequences. Our fear of esoteric technology is much stronger than any reassurances that “experts” can provide. No one should “play God.”
Frankenstein A metaphor for our own cultural crises. A work or agency that proves troublesomely uncontrollable, especially to its creator. A nightmare (love does not conquer all). Faust, Prometheus, modern Prometheus. Paradise Lost without angels, devils or god. A secular myth of creation of mortal bodies with electricity. Creature with no mother and no name
Themes Male birth and creation without women or God. Overreaching ambition and pathological science. Moral isolation with secret, dangerous guilt. Playing god without caring for creation. Technology out of control. Doppelgängers: Victor/ Walton/ Clerval/ Mary’s father // Elizabeth/ Justine/ the “bride”/ creature/ Mary. Justice and injustice in society. Politics of man creating the ideal man (or monster?)
Scientists playing god… Quest for omnipotence – nuclear power Quest for omniscience – AI Quest for transcendence -- cyborgs Quest for eternity – genetics Creativity – released to environment Lack of compassion, care Lack of responsibility
Playing god Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty
Playing god (Morgan Freeman in Evan Almighty
Playing God in the Garden (GMOs) by Michael Pollan "The scientists are trying to play God!” (we all do) by Ben Bova
FRANKENSTEIN: Critical Questions for Discussion Usually in a novel there is a protagonist with whom you might identify. With whom do you identify in this novel? Was Victor a Bad Scientist? Was the Creature a Monster or merely a pitiful Creature? Did you feel compassion for Victor or for the Creature? Why did Victor remain silent when others were threatened or killed? Compare and contrast Victor and the Creature. How does Walton's polar quest help to frame the book? Was Walton's quest similar to Victor's? What light does the biography of Mary Shelley shed on this novel? What was Mary Shelley's hideous progeny? The Creature or the novel? What are some major ways of understanding the Frankenstein story? What can we learn from this book? About science? About human nature? Add critical questions of your own here...