St. Michael’s College
  • Reading Frankenstein

    Then, Now, Next

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Mary Shelley's classic novel Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus turns 200 this year. Published in 1818, the story of a scientist whose horrifying creation turns against him demonstrated the potential of a brand-new genre: science fiction. Frankenstein's monster is also one of the great gifts to the modern imagination; the sight of the green patchwork giant is as familiar as that of Dracula, Bigfoot and other classic nightmare creations.

On the eve of its bicentennial, Frankenstein’s creature has never looked younger. Reflecting on the connection between race, physiology and physiognomy, contemporary critics have used Frankenstein to think about the construction of the human and the monstrous. In Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein’s creature embraces evil after his creator rejects him and denies him human status because of his repulsive appearance. This brings into focus how recent scientific and technological developments—artificial life, artificial intelligence, androids—increasingly challenge our concept of humanity. Will our technological progeny turn into monsters? Will we repeat the mistakes of Victor Frankenstein? Will artificial brains and deep learning software piece together what it means to be human, or shall humanists collaborate with scientists to instill, rather than design, “humanness” in our creatures? Can we imagine a future when humans read to machines, instead of letting them read us?

To explore these questions, U of T professors Paolo Granata (Book and Media Studies, St. Michael's College), Jean-Olivier Richard (Christianity and Culture, St. Michael's College) and Terry F. Robinson (Department of English), along with an interdisciplinary group of academics and authors, will give life to a series of initiatives centered on the celebrations of Frankenstein’s bicentennial.

  • Thursday, October 25, 7 p.m., Charbonnel Lounge. The Cinema Studies Institute will present the 2014 science fiction hit Ex Machina, directed by Alex Garland and starring Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson. The screening will follow an introductory talk by CSI professor Brian Jacobson, who will discuss the film’s modern take on the Frankenstein story, updated for the age of artificial intelligence.
  • Friday, October 26, 9 a.m.–6 p.m., Charbonnel Lounge. St. Michael’s will host an “academic campfire” titled Reading Frankenstein: Then, Now, Next. This three-part symposium will gather literary scholars, historians, ethicists, computer scientists, science fiction writers and futurologists—and invite students to participate in discussions about the ethical dimension of their technological practices. You can read an itinerary for this event here, and RSVP here.
  • Monday, October 29, 7 p.m., Charbonnel Lounge. St. Michael's professor Jean-Olivier Richard will host a screening of Mel Brooks' classic horror spoof Young Frankenstein (1974), which opens a window on on the tradition of humorous appropriations of Mary Shelley's famous gothic story. Professor Richard will offer popcorn and an introduction before the screening, and a discussion will follow.

The symposium will segue into off-campus celebrations: a multimedia exhibit of Frankenstein editions at the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy (Lillian H. Smith branch), and a full reading of Shelley’s masterpiece, hosted at the Toronto Reference Library and organized in partnership with the Frankenreads initiative of the Keats-Shelley Association of America.

Join us at the University of St. Michael's College as we participate in a week-long celebration of the anniversary of Frankenstein at the University of Toronto. Our initiatives will engage students, faculty and the wider public in the rereading of this modern myth and foster creative interplay between the arts, the humanities and the technosciences. The campus-wide program will include lectures, readings and special exhibits, and all events will be free and open to the public.

Reading Frankenstein: Then, Now, Next
A Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818-2018)

Toronto, 25-31 October 2018

Reading Frankenstein: Then, Now, Next A Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818-2018) Toronto, 25-31 October 2018

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Support provided by the Jackman Humanities Institute Program for the Arts

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University of Toronto Sponsors:

University of Toronto sponsors include The Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto, the University of St. Michael's College, U of T English, U of T Mississauga, The Centre for Ethics at the U of T, Innis College at the U of T, the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the U of T and the U of T Cinema Studies Institute.

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Cultural Partners:The Toronto Reference Library, The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy, The Keats-Shelley Association of America, Frankenreads

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Academic committee:

Alan Bewell (Department of English, UTSG), Randy Boyagoda (University of St. Michael’s College), Markus Dubber (Center for Ethics), Yiftach Fehige (Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology), Paolo Granata (Book and Media Studies program), Brian Jacobson (Cinema Studies Institute), Charlie Keil (Innis College), Jean-Olivier Richard (Christianity and Culture program), Terry Robinson (Department of English and Drama, UTM), Avery Slater (Department of English and Drama, UTM), Dan White (Department of English and Drama, UTM).