It’s Alive! 200 Years of Frankenstein

In 1818, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley sat with a few friends and played a game to see who could fabricate the best ghost story. Shelley was stumped until, one night, she woke after seeing her story play out in her dreams. 200 years later on the night of Feb. 27, 2018, a room full of students, professors and doctors analyzed the story written that night– the story of Victor Frankenstein and his creature.

Before the panel even began, professionals and students from the Medical University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston joined together in MUSC’s Basic Science building to converse. To make the meeting less formal they served hors d’oeuvres catered by Caviar & Bananas. Finger sandwiches, fruit and vegetable trays, deserts and meatballs lined a table for the guests to dive into while they patiently waited for the panel to begin.

After refreshments, guests walked into the wood-panel auditorium and picked one of the worn cushioned seats to sit in. Each of the seats bears a small gold plaque inscribed in honor of a different person. The front of the room is relatively bare, decorated only by a large screen on which clips from various Frankenstein adaptations over the decades would be displayed. In front of the screen sat an array of chairs that the panelists would sit in to watch and respond.

The panel began by Lisa Saladin, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost for the Medical University of South Carolina. She honored the panel’s sponsors which included the Office of Humanities at the Medical University of South Carolina as well as the Women’s and Gender Studies, English and History departments at the College of Charleston before introducing the panelists. On the panel were some familiar faces that College of Charleston students know including Dr. Kathleen Béres Rogers from the English Department and Dr. Scott Poole from the History Department. Alongside them from the Medical University of South Carolina were Angela Dempsey, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology; DaNine Fleming, Director of Training and Intercultural Education; and Ed Krug, Graduate Professor of Molecular Science and Cell Biology.

As the title “Faces of Frankenstein: Health, Science, Diversity, and Literature in Film” suggests, the panel looked at the tale of Frankenstein through many different lenses. While Krug and Dempsey looked at the film through the lens of the ethics of scientific experimentation, Rogers, Poole and Fleming took a more social stance. Instead of looking at Frankenstein as a case study of an experiment gone wrong, they viewed it as a warning about prejudice and the need for sympathy and inclusion.

The panel ended with time for the audience to ask any question they had for the panelists. A few hands went up, and the room was engaged in conversation. Panelists eagerly answered the questions that were thrown their way.  Eventually, questions had to be cut short so the panel could end.

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