It was a dark and stormy night…
So begins many a thrilling tale of Gothic horror – but in fact, the book that is probably the best-known of all Gothic novels – and a regular examination board set text – had its origins in the boredom of a rainy afternoon. According to Mary Shelley, the idea for Frankenstein emerged when she and her husband-to-be Percy Shelley were stuck indoors in their friend Byron’s villa on the shores of Lake Geneva. The three began telling ghost stories to while away the time and that night Mary later found herself unable to sleep. She tells us:
“My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guided me, gifting the successive images that arose in my mind with a vividness far beyond the usual bound of reverie. I saw – with shut eyes, but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together; I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out; and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion.”
And so Man created Man – a shocking concept at a time when Christian beliefs were regarded as the foundation-stone of civilised Western society.
Archive on 4: Frankenstein Lives 14 January BBC Radio 4 8pm
BBC Radio is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein with ‘Archive on 4: Frankenstein Lives!’ on Saturday 8-9 am (13 January). Presenter Christopher Frayling delves into the history of the Frankenstein myth, using some chilling archive recordings and contributions from filmmakers, writers and scientists who all give insights into the book that inspired so many
Frankenstein 14 January BBC Radio 4 Extra 6-7pm
A dramatised adaptation of the book itself follows on Sunday night on Radio 4 Extra, (14 January 6-7 pm R4 Extra) in 7th Dimension: Frankenstein starring Michael Maloney as Frankenstein and John Wood as The Monster.
In Search of Mary Shelley BBC Radio 4 starts 15 January 9.45am
Radio 4’s Book of the Week is ‘In Search of Mary Shelley’, a major new biography by writer and poet Fiona Sampson. Letters, diaries and an examination of key stages of Mary’s life sheds new light on her relationship with Shelley and others, her literary work and on ‘Frankenstein’ in particular.
Free thinking: Frankenstein and Artificial Intelligence Now BBC Radio 3 10pm – 10.45pm
On Thursday, Fiona Sampson and Christopher Frayling join Professor of English Daisy Hay in ‘Free Thinking: Frankenstein And Artificial Intelligence Now’ (Radio 3 10 pm-10.45pm) to discuss the legacy of Frankenstein and consider this in the light of current AI science.
Our ERA Learning site has a section on Gothic Literature – if you haven’t already got a login, why not request one now?
BBC Bitesize also has a revision guide on Frankenstein.
Professor Alice Roberts explored Shelley’s great work in The Secret Life of Books (BBC4) and there is a series of clips
and it featured in the BBC2 programme, Frankenstein and the Vampyre : A Dark and Stormy Night
This BBC News article looks at the varying portrayal of Frankenstein and the monster on stage and screen with a selection of clips. This includes a look at how the story has inspired other famous films and stories.
The OCR exam board has a collection of useful resources on set texts and there is a reading list, scheme of work and lesson plan for Frankenstein at A/AS level