“Frankenread” Marks 200th Anniversary of Horror Novel

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To celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” faculty and students participated in an international, all-day reading of the novel. WILLIAM WIN/FOGHORN

During this year’s Halloween, multiple departments at USF participated in an international reading of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” This event celebrated the 200th anniversary of the book’s publication.

The College of Arts and Science, the Honors College, Gleeson Library and Geschke Center co-sponsored the live reading of the novel in the amphitheater outside of Kalmanovitz Hall. The “Frankenread,” as it was dubbed, was an all-day event, with different professors reading in rotation for the entire day with only small breaks.

“We all think we know what ‘Frankenstein’ means, even if we haven’t read it, because it has become a metaphor for our world,” Professor Vijaya Nagarajan said. Nagarajan is the chair of the theology and religious studies department and read from the novel twice during the event. She felt a strong, natural pull toward the book because it combines the ideas of ethics and technology.

“I started out as an aerospace engineer and ended up as a professor of theology and religious studies because I really think it is vital that we bring ethics to the center of our technology creations,” Nagarajan said.

The live reading began at 9:00 a.m. with a reading by President Paul Fitzgerald and continued with other readers until 6:00 p.m. in order to completely finish the 280 page book. Professors and students from different departments volunteered to take turns reading chapters of the book aloud.

“I really enjoyed the reading. In 10th grade, we read that book and [the event] turned me on [to] reading again,” freshman Skylar Mercer said. “It was so engaging that it reminded me how fun reading had been.”

The Frankenread was an international event created by the Keats-Shelley Association of America, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the second generation of Romanticism writing. According to their website, a total of 597 Frankenread events were approved for this year’s Halloween reading, many in the United States and some in other countries.

“The brilliance of the young… I mean, [Mary Shelley] was only 16 and she had this dream,” said Professor Nagarajan. “I think it really profoundly reveals to us the complications of discovery, invention and scientific work, and how easily the notion of ethics can escape us. That’s what actually drew me to this. I wanted to think about it, so I actually volunteered to read twice.”

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