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Vaughan Hennen, Dr. Stacey Berry, and Dr. Dale Droge
The 1818 classic “Frankenstein” is the Read to Connect book at DSU this year. The program was proposed by Vaughan Hennen, Dr. Stacey Berry, and Dr. Dale Droge.

Themes from Frankenstein’s monster transcend the times

Academics, Admissions, College of Arts and Sciences

“We created this monster and now we have to live with it,” joked Dr. Dale Droge, biology professor at Dakota State University.

That statement certainly fits the theme of Mary Shelley’s classic novel “Frankenstein,” but it also applies to the 2018 Read to Connect program at DSU.

Droge, Dr. Stacey Berry, associate professor of English for new media, and Vaughan Hennen, digital design and access librarian at the Karl Mundt Library, proposed this program over the summer, using the 1818 book as the basis for discussions on ethics in science, medicine, research, and technology.

“The characters and the topics of humanity, technology, science, they all transcend the times,” Droge said. “It’s why the book is still talked about 200 years after publication.”

In fact, “people have dealt with these types of questions for centuries,” he said. “We may not solve them, but we should ponder and reflect on them.”

That is the goal of a university education, said Hennen, to build these types of conversations.

“College is a great time to have these conversations, so that students can think more broadly about these concepts,” Hennen said.

“That’s what’s so fascinating about these questions,” said Berry. “They remind us of the big philosophical questions about what makes us all human.”

Droge added that such discussions provide a sense of shared community. Events are planned in several classes, such as the freshmen university experience classes. All faculty are invited to use their own ideas to incorporate the book into their curriculum or programs, said Berry.

“We hope to inspire faculty to think outside the box,” said Hennen, “and bring creativity into classes with an intriguing and thoughtful process.”

Some additional activities are in the planning stages for mid- to late-October, such as science events and movie screenings.

The film industry and other popular media have produced a number of works with similar themes over the last few years, Berry pointed out. Television shows like “Westworld” and movies like “Transcendence,” “HER,” and the 2017 “Blade Runner” remake include themes of cyberattacks and smart technology, sharing the concepts found in “Frankenstein,” that advanced technology can spur general fear, she stated.

“What does it mean to be human, and does the technology threaten us?” Droge summarized.

“The point is to look at all different sides,” Hennen said. “It’s a human thing to think about what else is in this world, or what is beyond our current space.” Berry added, “the novel reminds us if we keep pushing and aren’t mindful we could push too far.”

“These concepts are why we’re excited about the Read to Connect program,” Hennen said. “It’s all to start conversations, and to build conversations.”