On the heels of the publication of his new book “Monstrous Progeny: A History of the Frankenstein Narratives,” Professor of Media and Society Les Friedman has been selected as one of 25 visiting international scholars at the “Frankenstein’s Shadow Symposium” in Geneva, Switzerland.
Held almost 200 years after Mary Shelley initially conceived the idea for “Frankenstein,” in nearly the precise place, the symposium will commemorate the origin of Shelley’s novel and assess its influence in different times and cultures, particularly its resonance in debates about public policy governing biotechnology and medicine.
The June 14 and 15 symposium is hosted by the Brocher Foundation, Arizona State University, Duke University, and the University of Lausanne, marking the beginning of a two-year celebration. The Frankenstein Bicentennial Project — a global, interdisciplinary network of people and institutions headquartered at Arizona State — will continue the tribute through 2018, with exhibits, creative contests, public events, scholarly publications, film screenings, and educational experiences that use the Frankenstein myth as a springboard for science education, imagination ethics, and artistry.
The symposium’s major themes include the historical and literary context of “Frankenstein;” efforts to build digital archives around the novel and other works by Shelley and her circle; and how representations of the Frankenstein myth in literature, film, art, and teaching have influenced perceptions of science, technology, and medicine.
Friedman’s presentation, “Frankenstein’s ‘Universal’ Appeal: The First Great Cinema Cycle,” deals with the Universal Studios films — including “Frankenstein” (1931), “Bride of Frankenstein” (1935), “Son of Frankenstein” (1939) and “House of Frankenstein” (1944) — that popularized Shelley’s novel and made Boris Karloff a star.
In “Monstrous Progeny,” Friedman and his co-author Allison Kavey — an associate professor of early modern history and chair of the History Department at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the CUNY Graduate Center — trace the Frankenstein narrative from Shelley’s 1818 novel through its many adaptations to explore its enduring appeal across genres and eras.
A former chair of the Media and Society Program, Friedman joined the HWS faculty in 2005, having previously taught at Syracuse University, Upstate Medical Center and Northwestern University. He earned both his Ph.D. and master’s degree from Syracuse University and his bachelor’s degree from Alfred University. He is the editor of “Fires Were Started” and “Cultural Sutures: Medicine and Media” and the author of “Citizen Spielberg,” “American Cinema of the 1970s” and the forthcoming “Tough Ain’t Enough: The Films of Clint Eastwood.”