‘The Monster’s Library,’ New Student-Curated Exhibit of Special Collections Materials, Now On Display

The monster’s Library, A New student-curated exhibit of Special Collections materials celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, is now on display in olin library.

A special exhibition curated by students enrolled in the course ‘Frankenstein: Origins and Afterlives,’ taught by Dr. Amy Pawl and Dr. Corinna Treitel, opens on November 27, 2017.

Using materials from Special Collections and the Becker Medical Library at Washington University, students explored primary source materials in meaningful ways to respond to this classic work of Gothic fiction by Mary Shelley. Only eighteen when she began the novel, Shelley was inspired by a storytelling contest during a summer spent in Switzerland with her partner, Percy Shelley, their friend Lord Byron, and Bryon’s traveling companion and physician, John Polidori. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was Mary Shelley’s first novel and its influence on literary and popular culture is still reverberating 200 years later.  In this exhibition, students examine the genesis of the novel and the literary and scientific climate of the time.

Illustration by Theodor von Holst from the frontispiece of the 1831 edition of ‘Frankenstein’

Just as the creature’s body is made up of previously scattered parts, Shelley’s creation is made up of other books. To investigate the remarkable intertextuality of Shelley’s project, students in “Frankenstein: Origins and Afterlives” have identified three “libraries” within the novel itself. –Exhibition Catalog Introductory Essay

The exhibit explores the Creature’s library, books found by the monster or creature which provide his education on humanity, Victor Frankenstein’s library, scientific and literary texts referenced in the narrative, and the author’s library, which contains books by Shelley’s family members and manuscript correspondence. This imaginative approach to reading Frankenstein and seeing the layers of influence both within the novel and surrounding it give a fresh interpretation to the classic text.

The exhibit will run through March 30, 2018.

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Reference and Outreach Supervisor