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Creativity and the Creature: Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ at 200 (November 2-3, 2018)

Frankenstein symposium

Published November 2, 2018

A two-day symposium hosting a compelling group of scholars, artists and writers whose work intersects with Shelley's "hideous progeny." These speakers bring a wide range of provocative perspectives to this investigation of Shelley's novel and its continuing impact today. 

At Smith, an historically women’s college and home to a substantial Frankenstein rare book collection, the symposium aims to galvanize discussion and debate about why a text about creation and miscreation written by a young woman with very big ideas continues to be so extraordinarily generative and transformational. How can Shelley help us to think through contemporary questions about race, gender, sexuality, disability, identity, bioethics, reproduction, the environment, the human and the nonhuman? 

Visiting Scholars

  • Eileen Hunt Botting is Professor of Political Science at University of Notre Dame. Her scholarly interests include 17th-19th-century political thought from Hobbes to Mill; feminism, liberalism and the family; human rights, women's rights, and children's rights; the ethics of biotechnology and artificial intelligence; and comparative, international, literary, and feminist approaches to political theory and the history of political thought. Her books include Family Feuds: Wollstonecraft, Burke, and Rousseau on the Transformation of the Family (SUNY, 2006), Wollstonecraft, Mill, and Women's Human Rights (Yale, 2016) and Mary Shelley and the Rights of the Child: Political Philosophy in 'Frankenstein' (Penn Press, 2017).
  • Rachel Feder is Assistant Professor of English and Literary Arts at the University of Denver. Her work focuses on Romantic poetry and she is the author of the recently published hybrid text, Harvester of Hearts: Motherhood under the Sign of Frankenstein (Northwestern U Press, 2018).
  • Les Friedman is is a scholar of cinema history and Emeritus Professor of Media and Society at Hobart & William Smith Colleges. He is author of Citizen Spielberg (University of Illinois Press, 2006), Fires Were Started (Wallflower Press, 2006), American Cinema of the 1970s (Rutgers University Press, 2006), and Cultural Sutures: Medicine and Media (Duke University Press, 2004). 
  • Jane Gordon is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut. She is a specialist in political theory, with a focus on modern and contemporary political theory, Africana political thought, theories of enslavement, political theories of education, methodologies in the social sciences, and political theory in film and literature. She is author of Why They Couldn’t Wait: A Critique of the Black-Jewish Conflict over Community Control in Ocean Hill-Brownsville (RoutledgeFalmer 2001) and Creolizing Political Theory: Reading Rousseau through Fanon (Fordham UP, 2014). She is co-editor with Lewis R. Gordon of The Companion to African American Studies (Blackwell Publishers, 2006), which was the NetLibrary Book of the Month in February 2007, and Not Only the Master’s Tools: African-American Studies in Theory and Practice (Paradigm Publishers, 2006). 
  • Lewis Gordon is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut and author of many books, including Fanon and the Crisis of European Man: An Essay on Philosophy and the Human Sciences (Routledge, 1995), Existentia Africana: Understanding Africana Existential Thought (Routledge, 2000), An Introduction to Africana Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 2008), What Fanon Said: A Philosophical Introduction to His Life and Thought (Fordham University Press, 2015) and co-author, with Jane Gordon, of Of Divine Warning: Reading Disaster in the Modern Age (Paradigm Publishers, 2009).
  • Lily Gurton-Wachter is Assistant Professor of English at Smith College, with a focus on British Romanticism, and author of Watchwords: Romanticism and the Poetics of Attention (Stanford University Press, 2016).
  • Jack Halberstam is Professor of Gender Studies and English at Columbia University and author of Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Duke UP, 1995), Female Masculinity (Duke UP, 1998), In A Queer Time and Place (NYU Press, 2005), The Queer Art of Failure (Duke UP, 2011) and Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (Beacon Press, 2012).
  • Shelley Jackson is author of Half Life, The Melancholy of Anatomy, hypertexts including Patchwork Girl, My Body, and The Doll Games, and author/illustrator of several children's books, including The Old Woman and the Wave. Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, including Conjunctions, the Paris ReviewBookforum, The LA Times, The Village Voice and Cabinet Magazine. She is the author of SKIN, a story published in tattoos on the skin of 2095 volunteers, and co-founder (with artist Christine Hill) of The Interstitial Library. The recipient of a Howard Foundation grant and a Pushcart Prize, she has taught at Brown, MIT, Pratt Institute, and the European Graduate School.
  • Kate Singer is Associate Professor of English and Chair of Critical Social Thought at Mount Holyoke College and author of Romantic Vacancy: The Poetics of Gender, Affect, and Radical Speculation, forthcoming from SUNY Press in 2019.  
  • Devi Sniveley is a screenwriter, filmmaker, and director, and a teacher of horror films at the University of Notre Dame with an eclectic and creative work history, including professional experience as a ballerina, Spanish translator, hair model, book editor, video game writer, documentary filmmaker, newspaper columnist and video editor.
  • Susan Stryker is Associate Professor of Gender and Women's Studies, director of the Institute for LGBT Studies, and founder of the Transgender Studies Initiative at the University of Arizona. She is the author of many articles and several books on transgender and queer topics, most recently Transgender History (Seal Press 2008). She won a Lambda Literary Award for the anthology The Transgender Studies Reader (Routledge 2006), and an Emmy Award for the documentary film “Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton's Cafeteria” (Frameline/ITVS 2005). In 1994, Stryker published “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage.” 
  • Amelia Worsley is Assistant Professor of English at Amherst College. She is currently completing her first book, Lonely Poets and their Publics, which charts the development of the concept of loneliness in British literature of the late-18th and early-19th centuries.
  • Elizabeth Young is Carl M. And Elsie A. Small Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College. Her scholarship investigates the intersection of gender, race, and sexuality in American culture, and she is author of Disarming the Nation: Women's Writing and the American Civil War (University of Chicago Press, 1999) and Black Frankenstein: The Making of an American Metaphor (New York University Press, 2008).

Symposium schedule (all events are free and open to the public):

Wednesday, October 31, 7 p.m., Campus Center Carroll Room

Film screening of The Bride of Frankenstein.

Friday, November 2

All are invited to stop by the Mortimer Rare Book Room (Young Library, second floor) between 1 and 4 p.m., where the center's Frankenstein rare book collection will be on display in conjunction with the symposium.

3-4 p.m., Global Studies Center, Wright Hall
Registration for symposium fellows and visiting scholars. 

4-5:30 p.m., Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall
Opening presentation: "Hypertextual Progeny: Shelley Jackson on Mary Shelley, Frankenstein and Patchwork Girl."

8 p.m., Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall
Discussion and Q&A with Les Friedman and Devi Snively; moderated by Alex Keller.

"Frankenfilms from First to Latest," a film screening of the first and most recent productions of Frankenstein. Thomas Edison's Frankenstein, a 15-minute silent film produced in 1910, was the first cinematic adaptation of the novel. One hundred and seven years later, Devi Snively made Bride of Frankie, a comedic feminist take on James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein (see October 31 film screening above).

Saturday, November 3, all events in Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall

10-11 a.m.
"Monstrous Motherhood and the Rights of the Child," a dialogue between Eileen Hunt Botting and Rachel Feder; moderated by Lily Gurton-Wachter. 

11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
"Race, Colonialism, and Creolization in Frankenstein," a discussion with Jane Gordon, Lewis Gordon and Elizabeth Young; moderated by Cornelia Pearsall.

1:30-3 p.m.
"Skin Shows, Rage, and the Promise of Monsters: A Joint Reflection" with Jack Halberstam and Susan Stryker; moderated by Cameron Awkward-Rich

3:15-4:15 p.m.
"Darkness and Distance: A Closing Conversation," among Amelia Worsley, Lily Gurton-Wachter and Kate Singer