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FALMOUTH — Frankenstein has become such an indelible figure in the cultural lexicon, it’s hard to believe the tale originated as the result of an informal ghost story contest among author Mary Shelley and her friends.
“Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus” was published 200 years ago and at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 30 the Falmouth Memorial Library will hold a special celebration of this seminal work. The event is free and open to the public.
“How can we not celebrate (this) classic work of fiction on its 200th anniversary?” asked Jeannie Madden, the library’s head of community engagement. “‘Frankenstein’ is an important book with a lot of moral issues that are as relevant today as ever.”
As part of its Frankenreads event, the Falmouth library has invited Bowdoin College Associate Professor Ann Kibbie to share her thoughts about the novel, which she views as a re-envisioning of the Book of Genesis in the Bible that deals with both the creation and the fall of man.
Kibbie said she also sees parallels between the moral quandaries faced by the characters in “Frankenstein” and the angst and fears that come with today’s interest in the development of artificial intelligence and the potential to surpass the powers of human creators.
Celebrated editor Leslie S. Klinger, considered to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on Frankenstein and the history of horror fiction, said the initial response to the novel in 1818 ranged from questions about why it was ever written to lavish praise from renowned novelist Sir Walter Scott.
In fact, Scott called the book, an “extraordinary tale, … which excites new reflections and untried sources of emotion.”
“Mary Shelley created an enduring, and seemingly infinitely flexible myth for the modern world,” Kibbie said this week. “Victor Frankenstein’s scientific ambitions enable him to create a new form of life, but his creation becomes a destructive force.”
In her talk next week, Kibbie said, “I plan to touch on a number of things, including Mary Shelley’s own background. I hope that people will have the chance to explore some of the major themes of the book, and will enjoy the chance to share their insights and responses with each other.”
Kibbie believes the novel is such a significant text that she often includes it in her curriculum. “I include this novel in my course for its remarkable endurance and for its influence on other writers,” Kibbie said.
Madden hopes the event “will inspire many conversations” among attendees and that they take away “an understanding of the book’s importance and implications.”
Author Mary Shelley was only 19 years old when she first conceived her enduring tale of Frankenstein. The novel is 200 years old this year.