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  • Writer's pictureStephen Himes

What is Frankenstein's Monster? Unearthing the World of Mary Shelley

I have been developing this course for years, which is the perfect AP Lit + STEM + History interdisciplinary trip. Frankenstein is one of the most read high school books, written at the rise of the Scientific Enlightenment. In London, we will explore the science that would have influenced Mary Shelley, including the original operating theater hidden in the second floor of a medieval church, and take a tour of the historical sites that gave rise to the study of anatomy--including the graveyards where corpses were "fished" for science.

We'll see a one-man show of Frankenstein set in a historic library, as if the books on the shelves talked to Mary--which, considering her upbringing, they did. We'll find the places of Mary's unusual childhood, the daughter of a famous philosopher and her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, the most famous feminist of her time and author of the A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Wollstonecraft died giving birth to Mary, and we'll visit her gravesite, where the young Mary was taken by her father to keep vigil.

From there, we'll trace her relationship with the poet Percey Bysshe Shelley, eventually tracing through Paris (where Mary Wollstonecraft witnessed the guilltoning of Marie Antoinette and much of the Revolution, which influenced her daughter's conception of the Monster), all the way to Geneva, where Mary first conceived the idea in an isolated chateau during the coldest summer on record, in a contest to write the scariest story that included Lord Byron.

There is so much rich material here that we can adapt it to whatever focus you want, or like the monster itself, just let it be a stiched together collection of everything :)

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