By any measure, Mary Shelley (1797-1851) lived a radical life. As the daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, two philosophers devoted to principles of freedom and equality, she grew up in a tumultuous world of exciting new ideas and strong advocacy for social change. After she and the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley eloped at a young age, they spent a rainy summer with Lord Byron and two other friends in a cottage in Geneva, Switzerland, where they passed the time by inventing ghost stories. And it was in that cottage that what is probably the most famous Halloween story of all time, Mary Shelley’s novelFrankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818), was brought to life.
What ideas shaped this famous story of a scientist who successfully animates a corpse before ruing the consequences? What does the novel have to say about the importance of human relationships in our society? And how does the novel connect to Frank Capra’s Christmas film, It’s a Wonderful Life? In this special Halloween episode, we’ll talk to Professor James Chandler of the University of Chicago, author of An Archaeology of Sympathy: The Sentimental Mode in Literature and Cinema, about the fascinating world of Mary Shelley, her novel Frankenstein, and the films they inspired.
An Archaeology of Sympathy: The Sentimental Mode in Literature and Cinema, by James Chandler
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley
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