Re-Covering "Frankenstein"

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SWBAT analyze pop culture representations and allusions of "Frankenstein" that have redefined viewers' understanding of Mary Shelley's classic.

Big Idea

In the pop-culture lab we do the monster mash.

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Context and Time Frame

Is there a teacher who has not heard the question, "Can we watch the movie?" I doubt there is enough time in a school year to watch every filmic depiction of frankenstein. Perhaps there is no work of literature that has been interpreted, misinterpreted, and reimagined in film as often as Frankenstein. So when students ask to watch the movie, they naively request something that really isn't possible. 

Arguably, to really understand any text, one must at a minimum read the book! I named this lesson "Re-covering Frankenstein" because I had in mind actually returning to the original text and using it as a way of responding to clips from a variety of films. I chose three films that "retell" the original work, and I use the word "retell" loosely here. I chose three films that reimagine the original because these filmic revisions show the innovation that grows out of an understanding of classic works. 

In this lesson students

  • View six clips of films based on Frankenstein,
  • Take notes on the film clips,
  • Discuss each clip after viewing it,
  • Complete a chart chat framed discussion activity,
  • Design a new cover for the text of Frankenstein using the assigned literary lens from the Lit Crit Chart.doc

The last bulleted item on the list becomes a homework assignment when class time is a factor. I include it here because I wanted to play off the duality of the term recovering.

Examining Pop-Culture Reproductions of "Frankenstein" in Film

30 minutes

First review elements of film students will observe in the movie clips. Do this by asking students what elements they will notice in films:

  • sound
  • lighting
  • camera angles
  • music
  • movement
  • costuming

Next, hand out the graphic organizer and review it with students. Re-Covering Frankenstein Film Analysis.docx

Present the Prezi, "Recovering Frankenstein in Hollywood Films" and allow time for 3-2-1 discussion between clips. This Prezi includes clips from the following Hollywood Frankenstein films and each frame of the Prezi has questions that can be used for discussion and as prompts for students to think about as they view the clips. 

  • Frankenstein, 1931
  • The Curse of Frankenstein, 1957
  • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, 1994
  • Bride of Frankenstein, 1935
  • Young Frankenstein, 1974
  • Frankenweenie, 2012
  • Edison Production of Frankenstein, 1910

In the 3-2-1 discussion, the teacher counts down. The first student to respond is 3, the second 2, and the third 1. Filmstrip w/ student notes and Film strip w/ student notes show two students' notes from the films. Those who did not rely on the graphic organizer tended to take notes on all the films, as in Student Movie Notes and Student Movie Notes 2. The notes are helpful during the discussion and during the framed film chart chat discussion that follows. 

Some additional considerations about the film clips: 

The first three films purport to retell Mary Shelley's romance or at least have left the impression with viewers that they are legitimate retellings of the story.

The next three films take great liberty with the original text, but in many ways are more representative of Shelley's themes. For example, Young Frankenstein presents the creature as "a man's man" and "a lady's man." He's civilized and has assimilated into society's most cultural paradigms by the end of the movie. 

Bride of Frankenstein suggests in this clip that Victor was right in his decision not to create a mate for the creature and gives students a "what if" question to discuss. 

Reel to Reel: A Framed Discussion of Frankenstein

20 minutes

Around the room hang "frames" for each film clip. I have these up for students to see when they enter the room.

After the Prezi presentation and the 3-2-1 discussion, students will rotate from "reel to reel" and respond to at least 2 or 3 of the frames. Each chart poses a question about the film and asks students to "recover" the lost filmic translation from the original text in one of two ways: 1) Put a quote from the text next to the skewed representation, or 2). Paraphrase a passage from the text. Both need a parenthetical citation so that the class can turn to the passage during discussion.

Examples of the charts follow: "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" chart and "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" chart 2 show responses from two classes. "The Curse of Frankenstein" chart and "It's Alive" chart show charts from the films that "retell the original tale." 

The examples of student framed discussion charts from the reimagined films are "Young Frankenstein" chart and "Bride of Frankenstein" chart and "Frankenweenie" chart

Following the "reel to reel" rotation, students reconvene at their desks for a short discussion about their filmic conversations. This can be handled quickly by having student volunteers share the responses from each chart. 

Recovering My Own Frankenstein Using Literary Lenses

25 minutes

Students have been reading Frankenstein through specific literary lenses with each student having one of five lenses (feminist, romance, sci-fi, socio-psychological, and gothic). Now they will use their readings to re-cover their books. 

To do this, students will use the template that lists elements of book covers and a directive to compose blurbs based on their assigned lens. Recovering Frankenstein Book Cover.docx

As time did not permit work in class on this project, it became a homework task that students included in their final reading responses of Frankenstein