Everyone knows the story of Frankenstein. Or do they?
If not… well, there’s no time better than the present.
One of the most enduring myths of the Western world -- Mary Shelley's “Frankenstein” – will be examined in-depth as the focus of an exciting new traveling exhibition that will begin a six-week visit to Eastern Illinois University’s Booth Library on Thursday, Oct. 20. The “Gala Opening” of the exhibition is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Marvin Foyer; admission is free and open to the public.
“Art Influenced by ‘Frankenstein,’” a student art show, will be offered in conjunction with the exhibition. The show, coordinated by Chris Kahler, associate professor and graduate coordinator of art at EIU, will be on display through Nov. 22 in the library’s Periodicals Gallery.
Booth Library and Eastern Illinois University will be sponsoring other free programs and events for the public in connection with the exhibition.
“‘Frankenstein’: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature" was organized by the National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Md., and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. The traveling exhibition is made possible through major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Library of Medicine.
"We are delighted to have been selected as a site for this exhibition," said Allen Lanham, dean of Booth Library’s library services. “‘Frankenstein’” is truly a story for 21 st century America. It is not simply a story about an out-of-control scientist. It is a human interest tale of ambition, idealism, revenge and forgiveness. Mary Shelley wrote ‘Frankenstein’ to show society what happens when power is abused, knowledge is hidden, and members of a community do not take responsibility for one another."
The tragic story of Victor Frankenstein and the living monster he creates in his laboratory has gripped readers’ imaginations since it was first published in 1818. Shelley was only 18 years old when she began writing “Frankenstein.” The daughter of social reformists, she believed that knowledge was a defense against the abuse of power by governments and individuals; armed with knowledge, humans could make responsible choices.
Shelley drew upon her wide reading in literature, history, the natural sciences and politics in shaping the story of a researcher whose personal ambition to reveal "the secrets of nature," and lack of responsibility for his actions leads to his own death and the destruction of his immediate community.
Shelley's monster was a sensitive, articulate and lonely creature who was denied companionship and rejected by humans. He lashes out in revenge only when he is betrayed and abandoned by his maker. But some playwrights, filmmakers and the media have in the past two centuries transformed Shelley's sympathetic creature into a speechless being who kills without remorse.
Over the decades, the monster has also been a symbol for fears about cutting-edge scientific techniques and research which often challenge the public's understanding of what is "natural" and what it means to be human. Frankenstein is frequently mentioned in media accounts of developments such as cloning, gene manipulation and organ transplants.
“‘Frankenstein’: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature" is based on a major exhibition of original materials mounted by the National Library of Medicine in 1997 and 1998.
Details and a full list of local activities are available by calling (217) 581-6061 or by visiting www.library.eiu.edu.