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Profs & Pints DC: The Science of Frankenstein

October 26, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT

$13.50 – $17

Profs and Pints DC presents: “The Science of Frankenstein,” with Richard C. Sha, professor of literature and philosophy at American University and author of Imagination and Science in Romanticism.

In assembling her great creation, the classic 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley drew upon the science of her day and pondered where it would lead.

Join Professor Richard Sha, a winner of teaching awards, for a fascinating talk examining Shelley’s hopes and fears related to science and situating her novel in the science of her day.

Dr. Sha will discuss how Shelley wrote at a time when biology had just come into being as its own distinct field. Researchers then had taken up the nascent science of teratology—the study of abnormalities in the physiological development of living things—which derives its name from the Greek word for “monster” or “marvel.” A major controversy of the day was a debate over how the very existence of “monsters” reflected upon the nature of the creator. People still spoke of a horrific 1803 experiment in which the Italian physicist Giovanni Aldini pumped electricity into the body of a dead criminal and caused one eye of the deceased to open.

Shelley became interested in electricity and its relationship with life. She also had obstetrical experiences that would inform her novel, having given birth to two children and lost one.

In her author’s introduction to a later edition of the book, one of the great works of literature’s Romantic period, she described the vision that inspired the novel: “I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be, for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavor to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.”

You’ll enjoy hearing Frankenstein brought to life by Dr. Sha, a scholar of the relationship between romantic literature and science who is affiliated with American University’s Center for Behavioral Neuroscience and teaches courses on zombies and consciousness. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)

Image: An illustration from a 1922 edition of Frankenstein published by Cornhill Publishing Company.


October 26, 2023
6:00 pm - 8:30 pm EDT
$13.50 – $17
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Profs and Pints
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