How books turned Franken­stein mon­ster into a killing ma­chine

The Scotsman - - Around Scotland - By SHÂN ROSS

The dif­fer­ent read­ing choices of Dr Vic­tor Franken­stein and the mon­ster he cre­ated ul­ti­mately led to the trail of death and de­struc­tion in Mary Shelly’s Gothic novel mas­ter­piece, a Scot­tish aca­demic says.

Dr Daniel Cook, a se­nior lec­turer in English at the Univer­sity of Dundee, who is giv­ing a fre­elec­ture“franken­stein:the Book­sthat­made­the­mon­ster” at The Mc­manus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Mu­seum next Tues­day evening, de­scribed the mon­ster as an at­ten­tive reader of the hu­man­i­ties, adding and “that’s his prob­lem”.

“He reads Par­adise Lost, the Bible, The Sor­rows of Young Werther and learns of and copies mankind’s flaws,” said Dr Cook.

Mean­while Dr Franken­stein, the mon­ster’s cre­ator, is an inat­ten­tive reader of the sciences who re­jects mod­ern science of Humphry Davy and oth­ers. “The plot un­folds be­cause of how the two pro­tag­o­nists read and that is some­thing that I want to talk about, prov­ing that Franken­stein is more than just the story of a mad sci­en­tist that has cre­ated a mon­ster.”

Con­trary to the pop­u­lar im­age of a mon­ster who is por­trayed as ig­no­rant and with a bolt through his neck, Shel­ley wrote of a sen­si­tive crea­ture who was hurt by Dr Franken­stein’s re­jec­tion of him and who then swears re­venge.

Dr Cook added: “Quite of­ten we think of Franken­stein as a cul­tural myth rather than as a highly so­phis­ti­cated piece of writ­ing. In re­al­ity, Franken­stein is a book about books.”

The lec­ture comes as the city pre­pares to cel­e­brate the 200th an­niver­sary of the pub­li­ca­tion of Mary Shel­ley’s Franken­stein.

Shel­ley (1797-1851) who be­gan writ­ing ‘Franken­stein’ at the age of 18 cred­ited the two years she spent liv­ing in Dundee’s South Baf­fin Street as a young teenager af­ter her fa­ther sent her to live with the wealthy jute baron Bax­ter fam­ily with help­ing her form her pas­sion of writ­ing.

She wrote that the “airy flights of my imag­i­na­tion, were born and fos­tered” through­out her time in the city.

“The Cot­tage” in Dundee’s Ferry Road where she lived is men­tioned within the text of Franken­stein.

Later this month, Dr Cook, who spe­cialises in 18th and 19th-cen­tury lit­er­a­ture, will pub­lish an edited and newly-il­lus­trated Dundee edi­tion of Franken­stein, cel­e­brat­ing Shel­ley’s ties with the city and the 200th an­niver­sary of the orig­i­nal’s pub­li­ca­tion.

It will be avail­able free, in print and on­line through the univer­sity’s Dis­cov­ery por­tal.

sross@scots­man.com

The im­age of the ig­no­rant mon­ster is flawed ar­gues ex­pert

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