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To mark the 200th birthday of “Frankenstein,” we have updated our older Learning Network lessons with recent Times resources to pair with the text.
Then, pair the novel with Times coverage of experiments in bioethics.
For example, students might read about China’s experimental attempts at human head transplant surgery in “Doctor’s Plan for Full-Body Transplants Raises Doubts Even in Daring China.” Or they might read about a Pew Research Center study on distrust of scientists in “Building a Better Human With Science? Students might weigh in on a Student Opinion question we asked in 2012, “Given Unlimited Resources, What Scientific or Medical Problem Would You Investigate?
Frankenstein and Bioethics In the 1800s as today, advances in medical science outpaced discussions of the social, cultural, legal and ethical implications of those advances.
Just as Shelley and her contemporaries debated the issues, so do today’s thinkers, and the study of bioethics is an international one.
To what extent can friendships and other human connections save a person from depression, or even depravity or violence? If so, what conditions must exist, or not exist, in order for it to flourish?
How important are human connections to a full and satisfying life?The novel’s real brilliance, however, lies in its presentation of countless universal themes, and the questions it raises about them.Several of the novel’s most prominent themes — friendship, appearances and bioethics, for example — are featured with teaching ideas below.1.To explore these questions, pair the Shelley novel with the 1980 David Lynch movie “The Elephant Man” (and The Times’s movie review).The film, based on real-life Joseph Merrick, tells the story of a congenitally disfigured 19th-century Englishman rescued from circus slavery by Frederick Treves, a prominent London surgeon.The mid-1800s gave rise to experiments with newly discovered electricity, galvanism and attempts to bring the dead back to life, and Shelley and her intellectual contemporaries spent hours discussing these experiments and their implications for the world.“Frankenstein” is a good example of a Gothic novel in the Romantic form, and is an early science fiction work.It is written as an epistolary novel and uses the narrative framework of “stories within a story,” with the main plot sandwiched between an introduction and conclusion by a second narrator, Sir Robert Walton.What can we learn about the elements of fiction from stories about the work of real scientists?In “Lab Lit: Writing Fiction Based on Real Science,” a lesson plan based on the essay, students learn about the genre, then choose from a number of activities to explore an area of science through reading and writing lab lit.The story behind “Frankenstein” is as intriguing as the novel itself.Mary Shelley’s life, and that of her mother and father, provide insight into her intellect, fears, fascination with science and musings on human nature.