The first science fiction novel, published over 200 years ago, was in fact an ed-tech story: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. While the book is commonly interpreted as a tale of bad science, it is also the story of bad education — something we tend to forget if we only know the story through the 1931 film version. Shelley’s novel underscores the dangerous consequences of scientific knowledge, sure, but it also explores how knowledge that is gained surreptitiously or gained without guidance might be disastrous. Victor Frankenstein, stumbling across the alchemists and then having their work dismissed outright by his father, stoking his curiosity so much that a formal (liberal arts?) education can’t change his mind. And the creature, abandoned by Frankenstein and thus without care or schooling, learning to speak by watching the De Lacey family, learning to read by watching Safie, “the lovely Arabian,” do the same, finding and reading Paradise Lost.
On the 200th anniversary, Fiona Sampson discusses the enduring legacy of the novel.
How could a teenager come up with not one but two enduring archetypes: the scientist obsessed by blue-sky research and unable to see it has ethical and social consequences, and the near human he creates?
I also listened to the discussion on the In Our Time podcast.