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Frankenstein

1. Compare and contrast two movies, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), the more faithful Branagh version, and James Whale's Frankenstein (1931), which relates to pop culture.

2. Just for fun: Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt Kickers recorded the hit sensation "The Monster Mash" in 1962. The dance, something like the "mashed potato," goes like this: holding your arms in a ghoulish position, grind one foot on the floor in mashing footwork as if putting a cigarette butt out; pull that foot backward; then step onto the opposite foot and do the same thing. At the same time, walk in place and swivel your foot. See Novelty Dances, http://www.eijkhout.net/rad/dance_specific/ novelty6.html.

3. Discuss how attitudes toward death differ from one generation to another. For example, when Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in a sailing accident off the coast of Italy, Mary Shelley was only 24. Because relics were acceptable keepsakes in lieu of photographs, she asked for his heart from the cremated remains. She kept it "[w]rapped in silk between the pages of his Adonais until her death" (Seymour, 306). At Percy's death, Mary had to fend for herself.

4. A feminist view of Frankenstein sees an aggressive male scientist who rapes nature (the passive female). In fact, Frankenstein's Professor Waldman taught him scientists "penetrate into the recesses of nature, and show how she works in her hiding places." Taken a step further, some think tech nology's ability to fulfill our desperate need for resources is raping the environment and destroying the delicate ecological balance in nature. Discuss Francis Bacon's misogynist rape metaphor, "In Defense of Francis Bacon," http://www.uno.edu/~philZbacon.htm.

5. The corset, essential in the nineteenth-century wardrobe, is blamed for ill health. Did surgeons remove women's ribs to narrow waists; did corsets oppress women; why has there been a revival of its use; and what Victorian views of sexuality caused doctors to examine women fully dressed? See: Valerie Steel's The Corset: A Cultural History (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2001).

6. Discuss nineteenth-century swaddling, which is blamed for killing babies when done in the extreme. It is used again, as explained in Dr. Harvey Karp's The Happiest Baby on the Block (New York: Bantam, 2002).

7. Study how Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," http://www .sangfroid.com/rime/, influenced Shelley (Coleridge's hero was stalked by "a frightful fiend," and there is reference to the icebound sea).

8. Read Michael Crichton's Prey (New York: Harper Collins, 2002) and discuss it in terms of Frankenscience and nanoparticles escaping to plague humankind.

"Rappaccini's Daughter"

1. First read the short story, then show the movie after the first class discussion.

2. Read Conan Doyle's story "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches," then discuss the scientific mind.

3. Read John Donne's "The Flea," then discuss the place of women in society.

4. Read, compare, and contrast "Rappaccini" with two other Hawthorne stories, "The Birthmark" and "Dr. Heidigger's Experiment," then discuss scientific obsession, the romantic notion of distrusting science, and being wary of boundless dreams of physical perfection.

5. Late-twentieth-century forensic science put a strange twist on the Salem witch trial more than 300 years ago. Linnda Caporael, a behavioral psychologist at New York State's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, writes in "Ergotism: The Satan Loosed in Salem?" that hallucinogen LSD, derived from the common grain fungus ergot, caused the bizarre behavior reported in Salem. Ergot naturally occurs in rye grain under the right weather conditions. When made into bread, it caused a toxicity in the people who ate it, resulting in bizarre behavior. Similar outbreaks identified in medieval peasants were called St. Vitus' dance and St. Anthony's fire. What other recent scientific theories explain this phenomenon?

6. Consider "Rappaccini's Daughter" as an allegory relating to Genesis 23; compare those Bible chapters to Hawthorne's Garden of Eden with "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

7. Compare Dr. Rappaccini's and Baglioni's archrivalry with James Watson's and Francis Click's scientific rivalry over the discovery of DNA. See McElheny, Voctor K. Watson and DNA: Making a Scientific Revolution. Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Books, 2003.

8. Research and define "romantic love." How do hormones affect it, and can you die from a broken heart? Research: Broken heart syndrome and stress cardiomyopathy.

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