Frankenstein is alive (and still powerful) at ASU Libraries exhibit and Keen Halloween festival

By

Penny Walker

As autumn looms and temperatures drop (at least for for most of the world), Arizona State University’s Frankenstein Bicentennial Project stirs to life with two public events examining the impact and relevance of the classic novel.

From now through Dec. 10, ASU Libraries will host “Frankenstein at 200,” an interdisciplinary, mixed-media exhibition that grapples with the provocative ideas put forth in Mary Shelley’s tale of creation and responsibility.

“‘Frankenstein’ emerged in a moment of great social and technological change,” said Ed Finn, co-director of the Frankenstein Bicentennial Project. “Similarly, today we’re all afforded the ability to create and transform the world around us. This exhibition demonstrates the power of Mary Shelley’s original vision, and contextualizes a centuries-old story for contemporary audiences.”

How we understand Frankenstein today is also a focus of the exhibition. The character and his creature have been adapted to countless books, plays, films, television programs, toys and video games, domesticating the horror of the novel into something playful but also reflective of society and our place in it.

“Just as the creature in ‘Frankenstein’ was assembled from an assortment of materials, so too is our understanding of Frankenstein as a cultural icon — a dizzying array of interpretations, patched together by our own hopes, fears, passions and inspiration,” said Bob Beard, the exhibition’s curator and Frankenstein project manager.

“Frankenstein at 200” includes contributions from collaborators across multiple disciplines at ASU and pieces created by members of the local community. ASU contributors represent ASU Libraries; Barrett, The Honors College; the Center for Science and the Imagination; the Department of English; Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; the School of Earth and Space Exploration; and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

The exhibition will also play host to multiple public events including school field trips, organized outings and the meeting of the Steam Crow Monster Scouts book club in November.

Expanding the project’s outreach beyond campus, Beard; April Miller, faculty fellow at Barrett, The Honors College; Kevin Sandler, associate professor of film and media studies; and ASU Department of English doctoral candidate Emily Zarka will appear at this weekend’s Keen Halloween event, a Phoenix-based convention and maker faire, to discuss Frankenstein through the ages, from Shelley’s original vision to lighter fare like Franken Berry cereal and Scooby-Doo. Team members from the project will also be on hand to recruit participants for a research study about the effects of the Frankenstein myth on the public’s understanding of science.

Both of these endeavors aim to welcome new voices into the conversation about Frankenstein.

“Frankenstein belongs to all of us,” Beard said. “Each new reading of or encounter with it breathes new life into the legend, and provides a fresh set of fascinating perspectives and discoveries.”

The “Frankenstein at 200” exhibition is open through Dec. 10 on the first floor of ASU’s Hayden Library on the Tempe campus. Please see the library’s website for hours and directions.

Keen Halloween takes place Sept. 24-25 at the Phoenix Convention Center. Visit KeenHalloween.com for information and tickets.