Narrative as Technology, Module 1
Science Fiction

Mary Shelley (1797-1851) wrote Frankenstein when a young woman, 19 years old -- that's really your age! As you read, ask yourself, what struck her so much as she was reading perhaps about the experiments of Luigi Galvani (1737-1798) which involved applying electrical currents to the muscles of animals, or about the attempt of explorers to find a Northwest passage to the Orient (and, implicitly, riches). Though born a little later in America, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was roughly Mary Shelley's contemporary, and is usually considered to be, as she is, a Romantic writer. The Romantics seemed to wish to retreat back to nature and simplicity in the face of industrialization and new technological developments, such as the steam engine. Yet the figures in these works of science fiction are really heroes, aren't they? Ask yourself as you read, how are Shelley and Hawthorne critical of their heroes? How sympathetic? Do you agree or disagree? Do you have similar fears about the effects of new scientific and technological developments upon your lives, or do they all seem uncategorically good to you? For example, does cloning worry you in the way that electricity worried Mary Shelley? If you forget for a moment any religious critiques of science, what other values or concerns are at stake?