EeElectrocuting dead bodies is fun. Well, the smell isn’t so nice, but hey! They twitch. That’s what matters, right? In fact, this so excited European scientists at the turn of the nineteenth century that they thought electricity must be the Spark of Life. Sound familiar?

 

Young Frankenstein

Image from Young Frankenstein (1974), courtesy of Universal Pictures and Mel Brooks: Peter Boyle, Teri Garr, Gene Wilder, and Marty Feldman. My absolute favorite adaptation.

One of my favorite novels is Frankenstein, Or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, published anonymously in 1818, then republished (with edits) under her own name in 1831. It was a landmark piece of work, the first-ever science fiction novel, and a treatise on science, politics, feminism, mythology, religion, … need I go on?

Those who know me well know this has been brought up because I’ve been applying for graduate school again, for a PhD in Mythological Studies with Emphasis in Depth Psychology. As part of the application process I needed a ten page writing sample. What better subject to write about than a modern myth that has continued to evolve for two hundred years? After all, science was changing the world and breaking the barriers of superstition.

And yes, I’m talking about electrocuting dead bodies. They called it Galvanism. Catchy, isn’t it?

Edit: This paper certainly does not reflect the scholar I am today, as it was written as for my entrance application to Pacifica Graduate Institute. While I still stand by much of the research behind it, if I rewrote the paper today it would be very different. I still might, but there is a lot yet to be written before that can happen. You can read the entire paper, Birth Myths Of Frankenstein on Academia.edu. Please remember it is copyrighted material as of 2012 and I reserve all rights.

Srange Brew

Frankenstein 1831

Frontispiece from 1831 edition of Frankenstein, illustrated by Theodore von Holst

Texts used in the preparation of this paper:

Recommended Further Readings:

please note: I have not read Leonard Wolf’s annotated Essential Frankenstein, but I have read his Essential Phantom of the Opera and thought it wonderfully insightful.