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Frankenstein and frankenfoods

Page history last edited by frogheart@... 12 years, 4 months ago

Mary Shelley, the novel's author, called him variously, a creature, a monster, and a few other things but she never named him. Published in 1818, the book was an immediate hit and spawned a play which ran for decades in London's West End. It was the play which helped to establish Frankenstein in the popular imagination and led to the publication of the better known1831 edition of the book.[1][2]


The transformation of the Frankenstein story into a science cautionary tale (not entirely deserved) started almost immediately and was complete within a few decades. Since then, the monster has acted as a remarkably flexible metaphor that can be applied to virtually any scientific worry. The monster, in various plays, stories, and artistic renderings, could be animated by any scientific means that were the concern of the day (prior to the 1931 movie which pretty much set the means of animation [electricity] in stone).[3] 


1992 marked a dramatic shift in Frankenstein's role as a pop culture icon. In a letter to the New York Times, Paul Lewis, a Boston College professor who was known for his proclamations against technology, fused the Frankenstein pop culture myth to biotechnology and genetically modified food with these words,


"Ever since Mary Shelley's baron rolled his improved human out of the lab, scientists have been bringing just such good things to life," wrote Lewis, echoing the corporate slogan of General Electric. "If they want to sell us Frankenfood, perhaps it's time to gather the villagers, light some torches and head to the castle." (p. 288)[4]


'Frankenfood' spread like wildfire giving activists a means of reaching out to mobilize public opinion against genetically modified food and biotechnology generally. Eventually, scientists working in the field experienced funding freezes.



Jump back

Activists get in on nano action


Jump joints





  1. Joseph, M. K. ed (1980) Mary Shelley, Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus. 1980 is the original paperback edition of the 1969 hardback edition of Shelley's 1831 edition of Frankenstein. Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press
  2. Hitchcock, S. T. (2007) Frankenstein; A Cultural History. New York and London, W. W. Norton & Company.
  3. Hitchcock, S. T. (2007) Frankenstein; A Cultural History. New York and London, W. W. Norton & Company.
  4. Hitchcock, S. T. (2007) Frankenstein; A Cultural History. New York and London, W. W. Norton & Company.

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