What Does It Mean to Be a “Global” Text? The Example of Frankenstein

06 Oct 2020 01.00 PM - 02.30 PM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
Kevin Riordan

Using Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein and its legacies as a case study, this talk develops a theory of the “global text”—a single text or writer’s oeuvre that has become a monument of culture and a focal point for shared cultural heritages, past, present, and future. The conceptual framework poses three sets of questions: different sets of questions: 1) In what ways was the text or oeuvre “global” in its own day, adopting a “worldly” approach that transcends its particular locale? 2) How does the history of the publication, criticism, and (where applicable) the performance of the text or oeuvre transform it into a global cultural commodity? 3) What is the cultural legacy of the text or oeuvre today throughout a variety of global media forms, including plays, films, novels, operas, and works of visual art? The talk will explore how Shelley positions her novel as a global text by drawing on classical Greek mythology, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and contemporary scientific debates about “vitalism.” It will conclude by considering a number of number of narrative responses to the novel—including James Whale’s 1931 film adaptation and the 1954 film Ismail Yassin Meets Frankenstein (Haram Alek), as well as the recent novels Frankenstein in Baghdad (2014), Machines Like Me (2019), and FranKissStein (2019).


Cyrus R. K. Patell is Global Network Professor of Literature at NYUAD and Professor of English at NYU in New York. He is the author most recently of Lucasfilm: Philosopher and Filmmaker, forthcoming next spring from Bloomsbury, and is the co-editor (with Deborah Lindsay Williams) of the Oxford History of the Novel in English, Volume 8: American Fiction since 1845 (general editor Patrick Parrinder, currently in press). Other books include Cosmopolitanism and the Literary Imagination (Palgrave, 2015) and Emergent U.S. Literatures: From Multiculturalism to Cosmopolitanism in the Late Twentieth-Century (NYU Press, 2014). He is currently at work on a monograph about how some texts and authors become part of global cultural heritage.