This year marks the bicentenary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a novel that, while published 200 years ago, continues to enthral readers and critics in the present day. Thousands of events around the world were held, in particular, on the 31st of October of this year – Halloween – to mark the anniversary of the book and pay homage to its legacy in literary, artistic, and scientific pursuits.
Staff and students of the University of Bologna situated themselves as part of Shelley’s international fanbase by organising a number of events as part of two conferences held in September and October 2018. From the 19-21st of September, the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Bologna hosted a joint international conference titled ‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, 1818–2018: Circuits and Circulation’ with the Centro Interuniversitario per lo Studio del Romanticismo (CISR), the British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS), the ERA (European Romanticism in Association), Cardiff University, and The Open University.
From the 30th-31st October 2018, a second conference was organised by the department in collaboration with other organisations and individuals in Bologna, called ‘Frankenreads in Bologna’. This conference contained a number of mini-events, including a beautifully curated exhibition of books and items relating to Frankenstein, also situating the novel within a historical context by displaying Shelley’s family tree and her other works of fiction alongside movie adaptions and spin-off fiction inspired by the novel. The department also led a roundtable discussion entitled ‘Mostri, Scienza, Contesti e Media’ [Monsters, Science, Contexts and Media], held at the Salaborsa library in Piazza Maggiore on the 31st of October. The department joined forces with other organisations in Bologna to contribute to a variety of events around the city: Professors Crisafulli and Baiesi, for example, introduced screenings of two Frankenstein films at the Bologna Cinema Lumière; Professor Crisafulli also introduced to the public a sculpture created by artist Guy Lydster and inspired by Frankenstein, which is currently on display in via IV novembre.
In addition to this, doctoral students from the department held a series of readings of Frankenstein around the city. This mini-event integrated GRACE researchers Eleanor Drage and Wilmarie Rosado Perez within ‘Frankenreads’ events that took place around the globe on the 30th and 31st of October to celebrate the novel’s bicentenary.
We took Frankenstein into the public arena by reading extracts from the novel on a number of occasions and in several locations throughout the city during these two days: in the open courtyard of L’Associazione Orlando; in Piazza Santo Stefano; in Bologna’s Salaborsa as part of the ‘Mostri, Scienza, Contesti e Media’ roundtable; and at the reception of the Frankenstein bicentenary at the Art Hotel Orologio, where members of Bologna’s academic community were gathered with artists, patrons of the arts, friends of Bologna University, and Shelley enthusiasts.
Here’s to another 200 years of Frankenstein!
FRANKENSTEIN MEETS BOLOGNA … DID YOU KNOW:
Mary Shelley’s account of a scientist who brings a man to life was inspired by trends in biology in her era, particularly Galvanism, which is today a term used to signify the contraction of a muscle when stimulated by an electric current. Galvanism is named after Luigi Galvani, a scientist who ran electricity through dissected animals (particularly frogs) in the late 18th century, and has since been recognised as the pioneer of bioelectromagnetics. Galvani graduated with a double degree in Philosophy and Medicine from the University of Bologna in 1759, creating a special tie between the city and Shelley’s internationally celebrated novel.