Many Romantic period novels are celebrating their 200th year anniversary in 2018. USD is taking part in the celebration on Feb. 26 and 27 with the Frankenstein 200! Symposium.
Heather Love and Lisa Ann Robertson, two assistant English professors, said they’ve been planning this celebration since last spring when Love was talking to an engineering friend about the anniversary.
“There is so much to say about (Frankenstein) with science, engineering and ethics,” Love said. “I just got thinking that it would be fun to do something about that.”
Love then approached Robertson, who specializes in 19th century British literature and teaches Frankenstein regularly in her classes. Although Love’s field of expertise is not the Romantic period, she teaches and studies mainly 20th century literature with an emphasis on science and technology.
“(The event) combines our two areas of interests and areas of expertise,” Love said.
Both Robertson and Love said they hope the different events can help capture the attention of a wide variety of people.
“One of the goals that we had was to get a lot of people involved on campus and in the Vermillion community and surrounding communities,” Robertson said. “So one of the hopes that is that (we want to) get people excited about something and showing people that literature doesn’t have to be this unicellular thing and that it can have a broader appeal.”
The symposium will start on Monday Feb. 26 at 4 p.m. with a diversity in the literary classroom workshop catered mainly towards faculty members and teaching assistants.
Later that evening, Coyote Twin Theater will be hosting an opening reception beginning at 6:30 p.m. with free food, drinks and birthday cake.
During the reception, they will be playing the 1910 film adaptation of “Frankenstein” and the film “Ex-Machina.” USD theatre students will also be performing pieces from their production of “Young Frankenstein.”
“Dr. Robertson is going to talk a little bit about how (Frankenstein) has been adapted,” Love said. “We are billing this event as a birthday party (for Frankenstein).”
Simultaneously, there will be a Frankenstein themed art show held in the Coyote Twin Theater. Anyone in the community is able to submit art for the show, and attendants of the reception have the opportunity to vote on a piece to receive the people’s choice award.
Another activity open to the community is the Dakota Writing Project sponsored ghost story competition to correlate with the story of how Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” novel started.
“This sort of gets into the club of Mary Shelley and her friends and writing a ghost story,” Love said.
The following day will have a number of panels beginning at 9:30 a.m. and running until 3:30 p.m.
February is Black History Month, which Love said correlates nicely with the key-note speaker Joel Pace, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Pace studies the Romantic period, but focuses heavily on the racial issues of that time.
“(He) often kind of thinks about different racial or cultural minorities, so he will be giving a talk on Frankenstein and the Black Atlantic,” Love said. “That dovetails nicely with it being Black History Month. He will be holding a workshop on incorporating diverse voices in the literary classroom.”
Pace will be talking at the 12:30 p.m. session on Tuesday. During the keynote discussion, free lunch will be provided for all those in attendance.
The final panel will include a number of graduate students and teaching assistants talking about how they teach the novel to their students.
English graduate student and teaching assistant Jenna Hayes said she thinks this event is important because of how this novel is so well-known.
“I think students should attend the event because it is a great opportunity,” Hayes said. “Also Mary Shelley was only 20 when she wrote this, which I think is incredible. This just really shows that younger people are capable of doing something great and that they can do something that has such great impact on the world.”