"I Had Selected His Features as Beautiful": Beauty as Social Construct in Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and in Popular Culture

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SWBAT analyze constructions of beauty in "Frankenstein" and in popular culture."

Big Idea

Beauty is a social construct.

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Context and Time Frame

Today's lesson is the first in the Mary Shelley's Frankenstein unit. In this lesson, I introduce students to the book with an activity designed to get them thinking about how we evaluate beauty in our culture and designed to get them interested in the text. 

As with many texts I teach, I begin not at the beginning of the book but at a captivating chapter. In this case, chapter 5, which is the moment Victor Frankenstein brings his creation to life. But before students begin reading the book, I have them unwittingly assume the role of Victor Frankenstein by creating their own "creatures" constructed with beautiful body parts selected from popular magazine images. Today students 

  • Select beautiful body parts,
  • Construct a "being" from the body parts they selected,
  • Complete a gallery walk and observe the beauty choices of their peers,
  • Answer a Poll Everywhere question as an exit ticket. 

The Beauty of the Dream: Picking Beautiful Body Parts

20 minutes

Today students will meet Victor Frankenstein and his creature (creation).

First, provide students a selection of magazines with images of people. 

Complete the selection of "body parts" in stages. I give a few minutes between each set of instructions. Finding Beauty shows students choosing their bodies and their parts. There is no specific order, but I give the following instructions:

  • Find beautiful people and cut them out and compile them into a pile.
  • Now cut out eyes and put them in the eye pile. (I have a designated spot in the room for each body part type.)
  • Find beautiful lips and put them in the lip pile.
  • Find beautiful noses and put them into the nose pile.
  • Find beautiful ears and put them into the ear pile. 
  • Find beautiful hair and put it into the hair pile.
  • Find beautiful arms and put them into the arm pile.
  • Find beautiful legs and put them into the leg pile.
  • Find beautiful torsos and put them into the torso pile.

At the end of the process, collect the magazines and prepare for the next stage of the activity.

"Infusing Life into Inanimate Body Parts": Constructing a Thing of "Beauty"

20 minutes

For this part of the activity, give students paper and glue. Next, I instruct them to select parts from each of the piles and return to their desks. 

Now, I tell students to use the parts they have selected and arrange them so that they have a "beautiful" being. Follow this with gluing the parts to the paper. The animoto shows some of the student work and the fun they had working on the project. 

Once students have their "creatures" constructed, hang them around the room so they're ready for the gallery walk.

Gallery Walk: Observing Our Ideas of Beauty

15 minutes

What do you notice about the choices your peers made? That's the question I pose to students prior to inviting them to rotate around the room and view the projects. 

As students rotate, I ask them to take notes and to write comments about their thoughts. 

To see how students assumed the role of art aficionados, check out Beauty Gallery Walk.

Poll Everywhere: How Do We Define Beauty?

5 minutes

For the Poll Everywhere Poll, I ask students: "What do you notice about your's and your peers' ideas about beauty?" Poll everywhere Quesiton and "What effect does the random selection of beautiful body parts have on the beings you created?" Poll Everywhere Question (2)

Before students leave, I read a passage from Frankenstein, chapter 5, beginning with the second paragraph: "How can I describe my emotions...." and ending with "I thought I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms..." (47-48). Student Response Poll Everywhere and Students' Responses Poll Everywhere show some responses to the polls I created for students. Since these responses save on the Poll Everywhere site, they are available for future discussions.