Art and the Brain: Chapter 11. The Promethean Human


Mary Shelley Births Frankenstein
Frankenstein as a Critique of Science
Four Frankenstein Themes


Without a doubt, Frankenstein is a part of the long history that links scientific investigations with ethics and morality. Shelly integrates a number of ideas related to science and the mind/brain discussions of the time, while drawing on historical currents in making her points. Just as restrictions against dissection in earlier times created a measure of difficulty in anatomical studies, experimentation with body parts and functionality were raising concerns in Shelley’s time (and continue to raise questions). Thus, Shelley’s work reminds us that art and science not only work in tandem from era to era, but art also has ability to respond to a range of questions. When artists reveal blurry areas we are given a space through which to ponder the perspectives in play and how possible outcomes impact society. Superb narratives like Shelley’s classic treatment not only raise questions, they additionally highlight how an effective encapsulation of the spectrum of outcomes might extend forward seamlessly into the present.

Today Frankenstein is almost always among the terms evoked when discussions of bioengineering, synthetic biology and other more recent innovations that speak of manufactured life forms. These debates, too, may consider norms, ethics, responsibility, and even creative potentials. Our understanding of the book today is so thoroughly integrated with all that has happened since that we are apt to lose sight of precisely how it was contemporaneous with Shelley’s reality.

Image Gallery