Posted on: October 9, 2023 Posted by: Amalia Thompson Comments: 0

Graphic courtesy of Moraine Valley Library, One Book One College Initiative

By Amalia Thompson, Staff Writer

Everyone’s favorite high school book report Frankenstein by Mary Shelley has made a recent comeback in the nationwide One Book, One College Program. This program consists of different colleges across America that take part in reading through a single book and coming up with events surrounding said book. Here at Moraine Valley’s campus, the program was kicked off on Tuesday, September 12 in the Sylvia M. Jenkins Library with a riveting discussion by Moraine’s Psychology professor, Dr Laura – Lauzen Collins, and Professor Jason King, the campus’s designated “renaissance man” You can see the entire panel discussion below.

The topics mentioned help us understand the underlying reasons for monstrosity. Lauzen-Collins started with reminding the audience of the kinds of monsters in literature, from the minotaur to Medusa, dragons and doppelgangers, and vampires, zombies and werewolves. How monsters have been utilized and mentioned in literature reflects back on our humanity. Portraying what is different about monsters in media in contrast to the social standards in place now, categorizes the monster as ‘the other.’ Dr Collins asked, “Is it Frankenstein’s creature that is the monster, or is it the people and how they mistreat him?”

Going on, she relayed the reason for why ‘the other’ label is used, the reason being that “when we categorize people as ‘other’, it’s really the part of the brain saying that they are potential dangerous and potentially monstrous, which brings in us vs. them” mindset.

Another factor Dr. Collins brought up is the duality of the self and reflection. ‘We all have a battle to wage’ that we have to confront, and integrate the shadow into ourselves,” which gives us introspection into our psyche, and how Carl Jung’s philosophy applies.

The next factor she discussed was the human fascination with evil in others, highlighting serial killers and why we are so interested in their wrongdoings. An observation made is that the reasoning behind this being “the fascination with others is really a fascination in ourselves.” While progressing in the discussion, she covered social transgressions: social norms and taboos, and we can relate that to cancel culture, how we socially reject those that are “monstrous” similar to how others view the creature created by Dr. Frankenstein’s in the story.

As shown in the clip, this much needed conversation brings up questions that challenge us critically as students, professors, and those who are interested in understanding the human psyche. Although Frankenstein’s creature is placed into the mold of being a “monster”, we must ask ourselves why we think this way? Is it because it’s the most obvious choice that Frankenstein’s monster is written as the bad guy and described as freakish and grotesque, or is it something more based in how we are programmed as humans to resort to the other as being bad? Collins asked questions such as this in a psychological manner that evoked a response from the audience and provided an overall better understanding of why we think, how we think, and do what we do. After all, aren’t all humans monster-like to begin with?

What society doesn’t understand it labels as monstrous.”

Dr. Laura Lauzen-Collins

Dr. Jason King however, covered more social anxieties and fears portrayed in Frankenstein.

In other fields, King provides more of a historical look at things on the Frankenstein topic, such as, what has led us to think about these questions in a civilization-based manner, focusing more on the biological and historical aspects that make us think about people this way, along with how this world of alienation is not something new.

Death has been a major theme in literature, using examples such as A Portrait of Dorian Grey as a reference. The biggest sections covered in King’s part of the presentation were social anxieties specifically in the 19th Century, touching on different social procedures about death such as morgues, and an interesting description made is that “morgue comes from the French word ‘morguer‘ which means to look or to stare.” In turn, the social norms in 19th Century London were more interested in the human gloominess than we are now. He ended his talk with an awe inspiring Q and A amongst attendees that engaged bold conversation.

These insightful conversations are a must have in these spaces of education. Not only do they open doors for students learning how to critically think and challenge their very own opinions on different topics, but they also help create spaces for open conversations where those who are participating can learn more about each other, as well as implicit bias and cognitive dissonance.

Discussion panels are not new on campus either. In fact throughout the school year, there are numerous discussions being held in the library, where you can not only sit back, relax, and hear about the monstrosities of humanity and fiction alike, but gain insight into politics, literature and psychology. All events are also livestreamed by the library if you can’t make it to campus. Click here to see all the Library has to offer!

You can also attend the next event “Universal Monsters: Critical Monsters in Horror History” which is a special Halloween event, on Tuesday, October 31, 11 a.m in the Library Lounge

These panels along with other events are a perfect way to kick off spooky season, so why wait? Go have a ghoulish good time!

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