Eye had a Dream

Aldini’s experiment became so widely feared yet intriguing that themes of reanimated life after death became centerpieces for novels like Polidori’s The Vampyre and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Shelley even admitted that Victor’s use of electricity was inspired by the practices of Galvanism (Mackowiak). In the preface to Frankenstein, Shelley explains that the character and actions of Victor came to her in a dream, inspired by galvanism. She writes, “I saw – with shut eyes, but acute mental vision, – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion” (Shelley 1). This gives readers an insight to the level of thought Shelley gave to creating life from death. Aldini’s work obviously made enough of an impact to permeate into Shelley’s thoughts which she then formed into a classic and highly acclaimed novel. [1] The use of imagery shows the inherent fear Shelley had at the time. She used this fear to capture the attention of readers even today. [2] Furthermore, her portrayal of Victor as a scientist may give an idea of what her thoughts about scientific progress was at the time. She describes Victor as an egotistic science maniac, which is apparent in his quote “I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation up on lifeless matter” (Shelley 76). Shelley’s view of science was most likely shaped by her fear of what science could do and thus manifested it in a form of a conceited mad scientist.

Note: There are other ties through Galvanism and Frankenstein that are mentioned in other tiles (Primary Sources, Electrophysiology, and It’s Alive!)

[1] Galvanism, though disproved, has changed much of our present education. We learn about galvanic currents in chemistry and capacitors in physics, but Galvani also affected the way we learn about Gothic literature.

[2] We fear the progression of AI within science. Essentially, fears have not changed at the root. It will be interesting to see how, as a class, we bridge all the important subtexts within the novel.

Top image: The eye image above, from the film Frankenstein Unbound, was chosen as the opening of the eye holds great importance to Shelley as it directly ties the Forster experiment to the awakening of the monster.

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Mackowiak, Philip A. “President’s Address: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and The Dark Side of Medical Science.” Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, American Clinical and Climatological Association, 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4112683/#B3.