The Monster’s Reading List

Editions of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, displayed at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, England, as part of Giorgio Sadotti's artwork THIS THIS MONSTER THIS THINGS. By Andy Mabbett - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26006913

Editions of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, displayed at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, England, as part of Giorgio Sadotti's artwork THIS THIS MONSTER THIS THINGS. By Andy Mabbett - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26006913

What will we be reading at Washington University in St. Louis during the Frankenstein bicentennial? See below for some of our favorite picks.

Image of the frontispiece to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein. The wide-eyed Creature is on the floor of a small laboratory and library space, tangled in a mass of books, fabric and a skeleton. Dr. Frankenstein, wearing an expression of shock and horror, quickly exits the room through an open door.

Be sure to start with a good version of the 1818 novel. The Norton Critical Edition (ISBN 0393927938) contains the novel plus scholarly essays and historical material. The Oxford Frankenstein is an excellent and affordable print edition, but without the scholarly apparatus (ISBN 9780199537150). STEM readers might like the new edition by MIT press for scientists and engineers (ISBN 9780262533287). Finally, you can opt to download a free version at Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/41445).

Next, consider reading some of the texts out of which the novel is built. Victor Frankenstein, the Creature and Mary Shelley were all avid readers, and the text is littered with clues about their reading habits. Fans of English literature might like to check out John Milton, Paradise Lost (especially Book 4, lines 1-160 and 287-535). Those curious about British radicalism should explore Shelley's parents: William Godwin, Things as They Are; and Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Science types might enjoy a lecture by the chemist Humphry Davy titled "A Discourse Introductory to a Course of Lectures on Chemistry." Shelley knew Davy and may have modeled Victor Frankenstein on him. Curious about how Victor re-animated dead body parts? Read the gruesome accounts of galvanic experiments conducted on fresh corpses by physicians Andrew Ure and Giovanni Aldini between 1803 and 1818 (see John Aldini, General Views on the Application of Galvanism to Medical Purposes on GoogleBooks).

Cover of Victor LaValle's "Destroyer" comic book shows a somewhat abstract rendering of a young black boy covered in roughly sewn scars and whose body parts are different colors and textures. With light green eyes, he stares at the reader head-on.

Want more? Check out Frankenstein's afterlives. A few suggestions to get you started:

Still curious? Your librarian will be happy to help you keep exploring. Happy reading!

Corinna Treitel
Associate Professor of History
Frankenstein Bicentennial Organizer
Washington University