Lehigh University Celebrates Frankenstein

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Lehigh Culture & Community

This Halloween celebrated the culmination of a year-long celebration of Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein. Arguably the inventor of the science fiction genre, Shelley’s tale of creation and destruction still resonates two hundred years later. The Lehigh University English department teamed up with the Bethlehem Area Public Library, ArtsQuest, the Health Medicine and Society Program, and the Center for Community Engagement to host a variety of discussions and movie “talk-backs” to bring Shelley’s creature to life for the South Side community ending in a marathon reading of Frankenstein for the international celebration #Frankenreads on October 31st at the main branch of the Bethlehem Area Public Library. 

English graduate students dissected the novel in three part in a series of themed talks open to the public at the main branch of the Bethlehem Area Public Library, with copies of the book on hand for attendees to follow along. Ashlee Simon and Gill Andrews discussed Victor Frankenstein and bioethics in connection with Volume 1 of the novel. The creature as minority, refugee and orphan was the them for Volume 2 with Trisha Nardone and Claire Silva leading the talk. The book talk series wrapped up with Volume 3 and a discussion of companionship, loss and isolation with Cherise Fung and Dr. Elizabeth Dolan.

What Frankenevent would be complete without showcasing some of the most iconic film adaptations? Steel Stacks Banko Alehouse Cinema hosted the classic 1931 James Whale Frankenstein with the talk-back hosted by Shelby Carr and Lauren Van Atta. The Sinclair Auditorium at Lehigh University was the site for a showing of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein hosted by Katherine McCaffery and Ava Bertone. The final film in the series was Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein hosted by the Bethlehem Area Public Library with a post-film talk back led by Sarah Anderle and Heather Flyte. All showings were free and open to the public.

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The premier event was the marathon reading of Frankenstein at the Bethlehem Area Public Library as part of  FRANKENREADS – an all-day reading of the novel. Guests and library patrons wandered in and out all day listening to snippets of the book, while volunteers donned Halloween costumes and performed their readings in 10-minute sections. While the event marked the end of Lehigh University’s celebrations, it may also have marked the start of a new series public readings of beloved novels at the library. Stay tuned for details.

Monday Meet and Greet: Ava Bertone

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Tell us about yourself!

Hi! I’m Ava, and I’m in my first year of the MA program. I was born and raised in northern New Jersey. I’m an only child. I have what all of my former (and, possibly, current — hi, Reagan) housemates would call an unhealthy passion for Halloween décor. At home in New Jersey, I have a toy poodle named Lola and three cats: Muffin, Amen, and Binx (stories behind their names available upon request). I’m incredibly clumsy and the stairs on this campus are not my friends… I once showed up to Prof. Lay’s Milton class actively bleeding through ripped jeans, after having fallen on my way to the building.

Why did you choose Lehigh?

I helped a family friend move into his first-year dorm here the summer before I started 8th grade. The campus felt incredibly collegiate to my 13-year-old self (although, I can’t say I feel much differently now). When I began my own college search, Lehigh was #1 on the list. I ultimately ended up applying Early Decision and, thankfully, got accepted. I certainly had my ups and downs during undergrad, but the English Department always felt like my place on this campus. It just felt right to apply here for grad school, too! Plus, I’m looking forward to learning more about social justice through the program’s LSJ emphasis.

What is your favorite book outside your field of study?

Anything by Mitch Albom, simply because his prose is evocative and beautiful. My top two favorites are The Five People You Meet in Heaven and Tuesdays with Morrie. I also have to include a children’s book called Lily’s Ghosts, by Laura Ruby. I reread it every summer because it reminds me of going to Scholastic book fairs as a kid. There’s something nice about the simplicity of returning to a childhood favorite!

What are you most looking forward to this year?

I’m hoping to get more involved within the department! Being here as a grad student feels so different from my undergrad experience, so I’m looking forward to exploring all that grad life has to offer. I’m also excited to continue working with some of my favorite professors in the department (as well as some new ones!) and building upon the academic interests I’ve cultivated over the last four years.

What We Need to Hear

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I started practicing mindfulness and meditation exercises when I was 11 years old, though at the time I didn’t know that was what these activities were called.
I was part of a group of kids in middle school that met with a counselor every few weeks to discuss our concerns about the school at large and occasionally, learn stress-reducing techniques like counting the breath and contracting/relaxing the muscles.

People are impressed when I tell them this fact. “Wow! Your school taught you mindfulness? My doctors/teachers/parents/guardians/friends just ignored my issues/forced me on meds/told me to stop being dramatic!”

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Monday Meet and Greet: Naashia Naufal

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Tell us about yourself!

I’m interested in Southern Gothicism and the intersection of medicine and literature. I’m currently also working on a historical fiction novel; fingers crossed that it’ll be finished by next year!

Why did you choose Lehigh?

I chose Lehigh because it seemed to be a very interesting but almost secretive place – one of those hidden University gems your read about. Plus, there was just something about the social justice component of the Lit program that struck with me.

What is your favorite book outside your field of study?

Outside of my field, I would say that my favorite book is The Rivals. There’s something very fresh, very contemporary and very comical about the love tangle in the play.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

I’m really looking forward to the chance of finishing a paper and presenting at the next conference hosted by the English department!

Tackling T.I.N.A. and Creating a Successful Public-Facing Discussion Group

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Tackling T.I.N.A. has entered its second year and is going strong.

The reading for the September meeting was an approximately 30 page selection from Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted, published in 2016, in which Desmond tracks the precarious lives of people in Milwaukee as they face eviction and homelessness while he explores the policies that cause these problems. Desmond also offers concrete solutions to begin fixing the problem of eviction, making an argument for increased housing subsidies.

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Monday Meet and Greet: Kelsey Stratman

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Tell us about yourself!

I’m really thrilled to be here in this environment. These first few weeks have been a whirlwind but have also been exhilarating- how lucky am I to be here essentially getting paid to learn?

Academically, I’m currently on a kick of saying that I want to study Appalachian literature, but my answer to that question tends to change every few months so we’ll see how it goes. Personally, I like cooking, spending time in the woods, taking bubble baths, and hanging out with my cat.

Why did you choose Lehigh?

I chose Lehigh because the department seems supportive not just of students as academics but as well-rounded people. I’m also really into the idea of Lit and Social Justice and trying to figure out what exactly that can mean.

What is your favorite book outside your field of study?

Pride and Prejudice is probably my favorite book. It feels like a cop out because my answer to that question hasn’t changed since I was fifteen, but I would honestly die for Jane Austen. I also love Cormac McCarthy and have recently been getting into Wendell Berry.

What are you most looking forward to this year? 

I’m really looking forward to developing my critical reading and writing skills through intensive practice. I’m also excited to learn more from the other students in the program, who all seem like smart and wonderful people.

Diversity at Lehigh

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It is not easy to be a person of color in America. Being a person of color on a campus is un-easier still. Narrow that field down and being a person of color at Lehigh can often feel like a challenge. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lehigh. I love Drown Hall which increasingly, has started to feel like my second home. I love the woods that appear to spring out of the earth on all sides as I take the bus to campus. I even love taking the bus – as clustered and dangerous as it can feel sometimes.

But standing out – something which to a certain degree, I experienced in New York – is a whole other experience at Lehigh. By standing out, do not mean that there are absolutely no other people of color (POCs) at Lehigh, I just mean that sometimes it feels as though there aren’t enough of us. While the University states how increasingly, it strives for more diversity on campus, I still experience little waves of shock every time I see an African-American student, a girl in a hijab or members of the University, who appear to be Indian or Pakistani. People like me.

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Monday Meet and Greet: Robin Lee

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Tell us about yourself! 

This is my first time living outside Tennessee, and it’s wildly exciting! I got my BA in 2016 and have been working various odd jobs ever since, always holding some vague idea of graduate work in the back of my mind. During this stretch, I wrote a lot of poetry and taught creative writing in East Tennessee jails after my shifts at boutique hotels and high-end jewelry shops. The contrast was, to say the absolute least, odd.

Beyond that, I love hiking and cooking and bourbon, and I cannot wait to wander the green spaces up here.

Why did you choose Lehigh?

The emphasis Lehigh’s English Department places on social justice peaked my interest (as did the fully-funded MA). I felt, through my work with incarcerated students, the immediate connection between social justice and literature but had not exactly articulated it, let alone encountered an English department expressly committed to it. Lehigh’s is the only program that I applied to.

What is your favorite book outside your field of study? 

I think asking an English scholar for his/her favorite book is a little sadistic. That said, my favorite book that I’ve read this year is Zadie Smith’s On Beauty. It’s a lovely novel about crumbling relationships; it is also pretty damning of academic culture.

What are you most looking forward to this year? 

I’m most looking forward to growing as a writer and articulating myself better.

Do You Smell That?

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I smell something in Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. Do you know what it is? It’s fear. Kavanaugh, Trump, McConnell, Graham, Grassley: they reek of fear. They’re scared shitless because the structure of white male domination is crumbling before their very eyes, on their watch.  

That’s right, we are witnessing the death throes of the white male power structure. This bunch of he-man woman haters knows that even if Kavanaugh gets confirmed to the Supreme Court, their glory days of smash and bash, grab ‘em by the pussy governance are OVER. And they are freaking the fuck out.  

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