Friday, 21 March 2014

Lecture Notes: Lisa Wade on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein through the eyes of Hollywood

In this regular series, art historians from the University of Essex provide thoughts on highlights from their lecture portfolios. First up, Deputy Head of School Dr Lisa Wade pulls out some contemporary takes on a literary classic as part of our interdisciplinary 'Enlightenment' module.

Lecturer: Lisa Wade

I’ve just given the final lecture in the first year Enlightenment series for this term, on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein! We looked at a number of themes including creation and birthing and with this in mind also recommended this YouTube link for students new to the text (click on the link above). This is a grand scale moment in Kenneth Branagh’s 1994 film version of Mary Shelley’s novel. Obviously there are some liberties seized, rather than taken. I’m sure it’s not entirely reflective of nineteenth century midwifery (more swashbuckling than blood-soaked) but I do think that it really helps to consider some of the broader themes that we’ve been grappling with. Sir Ken is both mythological creator and birth ‘Mother.’ So we see him stripped to the waist, sweating over the task in hand, variously lifting and pulling, injecting and apparently electrocuting (how totally Hollywood!) as he commands the elements! The final triumphant ‘YES!’ is no doubt intended as a parallel to the elation felt by mothers after the process of labour. No swearing here, though! Certainly the ‘blood and gore-free’ delivery environment (it was all gelatine, I understand) prompted me to think of blood and gore free Christian nativity scenes...
But that’s a whole other (second-year!) lecture.