Professor Peel Discusses 'Frankenstein' at 200

Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Black and white still of Frankenstein and Little Maria from the 1931 film

KQED-FM, FORUM (SAN FRANCISCO) -- “I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper.”

So wrote Mary Shelley in her introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein, the novel she composed at age 19 after Lord Byron challenged her to write a ghost story. Cited alternatively as creation myth, bioethical cautionary tale and psychological study, Frankenstein turns 200 this year. Forum host Michael Krasny and guests explore its legacy in literature, film and science.

Ellen Peel, professor of English and Comparative and World Literature at San Francisco State University, discusses the rainy night when Shelley, at age 18, drafted Frankenstein.

“She went to bed, was in kind of a waking dream and envisioned the pale student of unhallowed arts,” Peel says. “She pictured the scientist waking up and seeing his creature standing over him. And, at that moment, she herself opened her eyes in her bed. So that was one of the moments where her creation was like the scientist’s creation.”