Hiram College

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Complements Students’ Common Reading Theme: Ethics and Technology

Community Reading Program Engages Local Residents Through Event Series

Hiram’s Committee on Ethics and Values has selected “Ethics and Technology” as the interdisciplinary ethics theme for the upcoming 2018-19 school year. Each year, the committee pairs a common reading with the theme, to be read by all new incoming students. The common reading for the incoming class will be Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. The ethics theme and common reading are used to initiate discussions among students outside of the classroom and inside, for first-year colloquium and writing courses.

“The Interdisciplinary Ethics Theme is one of the ways that we try to pursue the goal of preparing students to face the urgent challenges of the times” says Colin Anderson, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy for Hiram College. “Clearly, many of these challenges that we will face as a society involve the effects of new technologies.”

In line with Hiram’s common reading, the Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature will spearhead a community reading program focused on Frankenstein. Funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant, the community-wide event begins September 11 with a keynote address, Sporting with Life: Frankenstein and Technology by Lester Friedman, Ph.D., emeritus professor in the Media and Society Program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. At the 7 p.m. event held in the Kennedy Center Ballroom, Friedman will discuss how the continuing need for Frankenstein suggests how little people have managed to balance the complex contradictions raised by their technological capabilities.

The community reading program spans through November 3. The community reading includes book discussions, movie showings, readings, lectures, and two other keynote talks – all at various Portage and Geauga County locations. For complete information about the community reading program, visit www.hiram.edu/frankenstein.

Author Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was just 18 and used the book to raise important questions about the dangers of technology and science, the limitations of human knowledge, and what it means to be human. Shelley’s story begins not with the green-faced monster, with which most are familiar, but rather with Robert Walton, an Arctic explorer heading off on a journey in search of a path to the North Pole. Frankenstein weaves together the narratives of Walton, scientist Victor Frankenstein, and Frankenstein’s creation, as the three test their limits and define their roles in society. Despite turning 200 years old this year, Frankenstein still poses relevant scientific and philosophical questions about the ethics of technology use.

“Shelley’s Frankenstein is a great way to start to think about whether there should be limits to what we can do through technology, the dangers of not reflecting on possible consequences from our inventions and discoveries, and the limits and nature of human being,” says Dr. Anderson, “We hope that this will deepen our conversations about technology as the Tech and Trek initiative continues to develop and also provide the opportunity to engage the community in a far-reaching and diverse conversation drawing on insights and interests from all of our disciplines and departments on campus.”

Hiram College started Tech and Trek in fall 2017, supplying traditional full-time students with mobile technology to enhance their traditional learning and make educational experiences outside of the classroom more accessible. Part of this initiative has been to teach “mindful technology use,” prompting students to question the appropriate place of technology in one’s life.

Another Hiram College tradition that will give students an opportunity to discuss topics relating to the ethics theme will be the annual Teach-In on Thursday, September 13. Started in 2001 as an opportunity for students to engage in meaningful conversations following the 9/11 attacks, Hiram’s annual Ethics Teach-In is a day when faculty members postpone classes and, instead, meet with students on the campus green to engage in interdisciplinary discussions. Topics at the Teach-In for the 2018-19 school year may include artificial intelligence, radical life-extension technologies, climate change, and others. Lectures, programs, films, and other activities to engage the entire campus community with the ethics theme will be announced throughout the year.