By Kimberly G. Landeros/reporter
Themes in Mary Shelley’s iconic novel “Frankenstein” were the topic of discussion for philosophy professor Michael Vendsel’s “Thinking about the Monster” presentation April 17 on SE Campus.
Vendsel, who received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Villanova University, has taught at TCC for the past five years.
The event began with Vendsel by discussing the significance of the Age of Enlightenment and how it impacted Mary Shelly.
“The Age of Enlightenment is a term that philosophers in the 1700s used because they thought in a sense that because of the arrival of modern science and modern scientific methods that the lights have been turned on, so ‘off we go,’” Vendsel said.
As a response to the Enlightenment, a movement called the Counter-Enlightenment or Romanticism was born.
“Romantic philosophers believed that the non-rational and non-calculated part of our being was every bit as significant for our knowledge of the world,” Vendsel said. “They thought that imagination and feeling were important sources of knowledge.”
Mary Shelley was the daughter of two philosophers, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft.
Shelley was also a product of the Counter-Enlightenment, Vendsel said.
Vendsel reviewed excerpts from “Frankenstein,” such as when Captain Walton is going to “the city of eternal light” with hopes of making great scientific discoveries.
This symbolism did not go unnoticed by SE student Angel Rueda Rojas, who said it foreshadowed the failure of Frankenstein’s monster.
“Too much light makes the world go blind,” Rojas said.
History professor Arthur Garrison joined the discussion at the end of the presentation by drawing comparisons between Frankenstein and his monster to the American and French revolutions.
“Frankenstein is saying, ‘I’ve created this, I can control this,’” Garrison said. “But the monster is saying, ‘you’ve created me, but you can’t control me.’ You can’t control or understand nature.”
Vendsel compared the scientific creation of life in the novel to contemporary scientific strides to create artificial intelligence.
“The novel is a major critique of the lust for power,” Vendsel said.