“Frankenstein, the Homunculus, and the Long History of Artificial Life” [The Curren(t)cy of Frankenstein]

  • Saturday, September 29, 2018 • 7:00 pm
  • Clopton Auditorium, 320 S Euclid Ave

A three-day forum celebrating the novel’s 200th anniversary by contemplating its bearing today in medical research, practice and ethicsSpace is limited please RSVP

Pre-event reception at 6:30 p.m.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the defining creation myth and horror story of the modern era, was published in 1818. The Medical Humanities program and the Center for the History of Medicine will host a three-day Forum on The Curren(t)cy of Frankenstein, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the novel’s publication by contemplating its bearing today in the context of medical research, practice, and ethics.

The event will begin with performance from the celebrated adaptation of Frankenstein by playwright Nick Dear, directed by Bill Whitaker, Professor of the Practice in the Performing Arts Department. Whitaker has directed numerous plays at Washington University and regularly teaches at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London. Following the first performance are different scholarly lectures including: Luke Dittrich on September 28, and Minsoo Kang & Amy Paul on September 30.

Day two of the Forum features, William Newman, Distinguished Professor and Ruth N. Halls Professor in History and Philosophy at Indiana University, will discuss “Frankenstein, the Homunculus, and the Long History of Artificial Life.” Professor Newman will demonstrate alchemical experiments of the early modern era, for which raising the dead was the supreme feat of alchemy.


Each day will culminate with a panel discussion among noted medical practitioners, ethicists, and humanists on the questions Shelley’s novel raises for medical practice today. Panelists include Dr. Susan E. MacKinnon, Director, Center for Nerve Injury and Paralysis, Sydney M., Jr. and Robert H. Shoenberg Professor, and chief, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery; Dr. Jeffrey Bishop, Director of the Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics at Saint Louis University; Rebecca Dresser, Washington University Professor of Law and expert on biomedical ethics; Dr. Emily Jungheim, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Washington University School of Medicine; Dr. Ira Kodner, Professor of Surgery and former Director of the Center for the Study of Ethics and Human Values; and Amy Cislo, Senior Lecturer in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Washington University and expert on Paracelsus and transgender studies.

Organizer: Rebecca Messbarger, First Director of Medical Humanities and Professor of Italian in the Department of Romance Languages

Sponsored by:

Center for History Of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine
Office of the Provost, Washington University Bernard Becker Medical Library Program in Medical Humanities, Washington University
Center for the Humanities, Arts & Sciences, Washington University
Office of Faculty Affairs, Washington University School of Medicine
Department of Developmental Biology, Washington University School of Medicine Medical Staff Association of Barnes-Jewish Hospital
Arts & Sciences Connections Series

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